Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on March 1 praised Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and said Tehran will continue to support him, despite an international outcry over civilian deaths in eastern Ghouta.
Khamenei's statement comes a day after the European Union urged Iran and Russia to pressure their ally Assad to halt Syria's offensive and heed a UN-declared cease-fire in the Damascus suburb, where more than 500 civilians have been reported killed by bombing.
"Iran will continue to support the Syrian government," Khamenei said, according to his official website. "Syria is on the front lines today; it is our duty to defend the Syrian resistance."
Khamenei called Assad "a great example of resistance and a fighting image," saying "he never hesitated and stood strong: This is extremely important for a nation."
Khamenei said Iran also has persevered against global opposition since the Islamic republic was founded some 40 years ago.
"From day one, all major world powers united and acted against us: the United States, U.S.S.R., NATO, Arab, and regional reactionaries -- they all united. But we survived and prospered," he said.
Addressing Assad, Khamenei said, "If you and we, and other elements of resistance, stay determined, the enemy cannot accomplish a single thing."
On February 24, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution calling for a 30-day cease-fire in Ghouta, but violence has continued with the government and rebels blaming each other.
Russia on February 26 declared that it would enforce a five-hour cease-fire each day to allow humanitarian aid to be delivered in stricken areas of Ghouta and allow civilians to leave the battlefield.
But UN officials have said the pause in fighting is not long enough for them to deliver aid, while Russia's "humanitarian corridor" has gone largely unused, according to independent observers in Ghouta.