Syrian supporters living in Lebanon wave Syrian and Iranian (L) flags in support of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in front of the Syrian embassy in Beirut July 24, 2011. REUTERS/ Cynthia Karam (LEBANON - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST IMAGES OF THE DAY) - GM1E77P04AD01
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Iran’s military presence in Syria is intentionally misrepresented by Israel, said Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem.

“Iran’s presence in terms of military presence in Syria does not exist – these are stories told by Israel,” Muallem told a news conference.

The minister explained that Tehran limits its work in Syria to the dispatch of military advisers who assist and advise the Syrian military and also help organize pro-government militias.

“The Iranian presence is legitimate because it is based on the request of the Syrian government, unlike the presence of the United States,” he said.

This is in reference to several US military bases on Syrian territory and their air campaign that began with no coordination or approval from Damascus.

Muallem also noted that Syria is a sovereign state that has the right to independently choose its allies in the fight against terrorism.

Israeli attacks against Iran are strained because of Tehran’s supposed nuclear program, hostile rhetoric and support for Syria in its fight against terrorist groups.

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In the same interview, the official said that Syrian government will provide all the necessary assistance to its citizens who decide to return to the country from states in the Middle East or in Europe since the situation has improved.

“We are seeking the return of the Syrians to their homes, and we will provide all the necessary help to those who are willing to return,” he told a news conference.

The number of Syrian refugees registered, according to the latest UN data, is more than 5.6 million.

Syrians have gradually returned to their homes in recent years due to the rebuilding of the country’s destroyed social infrastructure. Earlier in the day, the Russian Center for Reconciliation in Syria reported that nearly 340 Syrians have returned to their homes in the provinces of Homs and the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta in the last 24 hours.

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