By Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 22 (Reuters) - Iran appears to be supplying Syria with weapons, the United Nations said on Wednesday, as the 17-month conflict that began as a popular uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad slides deeper into civil war.
The U.N. accusation backs charges by Western officials that Iran is providing funds, weapons and intelligence support to Assad in his bid to crush the opposition. Syrian rebels also say Tehran has sent Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah fighters.
"The Secretary-General has repeatedly expressed his concern about the arms flows to the two parties in Syria, which in some cases appear to violate resolution 1747 passed by this council banning arms exports under Chapter 7 authority," U.N. political affairs chief Jeffrey Feltman told the U.N. Security Council.
In a prepared copy of his speech, Feltman noted that the ban was on Iranian arms exports. Resolution 1747 bans arms exports by Iran under Chapter 7 of the U.N. charter, which allows the Security Council to authorize actions ranging from diplomatic and economic sanctions to military intervention.
The resolution was passed in response to Iran's defiance of U.N. demands that it halt its nuclear enrichment program. Iran rejects allegations by Western nations and their allies that it is developing nuclear weapons.
Next week, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will attend a summit meeting of leaders of non-aligned developing nations in Iran. He will also meet with senior Iranian officials to discuss "Iran's nuclear program, terrorism, human rights and the crisis in Syria," his spokesman said.
Feltman also reiterated U.N. concerns at weapons being smuggled between Lebanon and Syria.
"Both the government and the opposition are focusing on military operations and the use of force, with government forces using heavy weapons on population centers," Feltman told the Security Council during a regular briefing on the Middle East.
"The Syrian people are suffering grievously from the appalling further militarization of this conflict," he said.
A U.N. Security Council panel of independent experts that monitors sanctions against Iran has uncovered several examples of Iran transferring arms to Syria's government. Damascus has accused Qatar and Saudi Arabia of arming rebels determined to topple Assad's government.
The United Nations has said more than 18,000 people have died and some 170,000 people have fled the country as a result of the fighting in Syria. U.N. aid chief Valerie Amos has said that up to 2.5 million people in Syria needed aid.
"This conflict has taken on a particularly brutal and violent character," Amos told a news conference in New York on Wednesday after visiting Syria and Lebanon last week.
"We face problems with access to people in need, particularly where there is intense and ongoing fighting, but funding is also holding us back. If we had more resources, we could reach more people," she said.
BEFORE YOU GO
09/09/2012 12:25 PM EDT
Syria Blasts Aleppo By Air
09/05/2012 7:50 AM EDT
Syrian City In Flames
08/25/2012 1:45 PM EDT
Lebanese Pilgrim Freed
Hussein Ali Omar, 60, one of 11 Lebanese Shiite pilgrims that Syrian rebels have been holding for three months in Syria, hugs his mother, right, upon arrival at his house in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, 2012. Syrian rebels freed Omar on Saturday in a move aimed at easing cross-border tensions after a wave of abductions of Syrian citizens in Lebanon. The Shiite pilgrims were abducted May 22 after crossing into Syria from Turkey on their way to Lebanon. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
08/24/2012 12:22 PM EDT
This image made from video and released by Shaam News Network and accessed Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012, purports to show the funeral of children in Daraya, near Damascus, Syria. Syrian troops backed by tanks and helicopters broke into a Damascus suburb on Thursday following two days of shelling and intense clashes as part of a widening offensive by President Bashar Assad's forces to seize control of parts of the capital and surrounding areas from rebel fighters, activists said. At least 15 people were killed in the offensive on Daraya, only a few miles (kilometers) southwest of Damascus. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network SNN via AP video)
08/24/2012 11:05 AM EDT
Lebanon Sees Heaviest Clashes In Months
Clashes between Assad supporters and opponents of the Syrian regime killed two people in Lebanon on Friday, the Associated Press reports. 17 people were injured.
The AP gives more context:
Syria was in virtual control of its smaller neighbor for many years, posting tens of thousands of troops in Lebanon, before withdrawing under pressure in 2005. Even without soldiers on the ground, Syria remains influential, and its civil war has stirred longstanding tensions that have lain under Lebanon's surface.
Read more on HuffPost World.
08/24/2012 11:02 AM EDT
A Sunni gunman fires a gun during clashes that erupted between pro and anti-Syrian regime gunmen in the northern port city of Tripoli, Lebanon, Friday, Aug. 24, 2012. The latest round of fighting first erupted on Monday in northern Lebanon and at least 15 have been killed in Tripoli this week and more than 100 have been wounded in fighting that is a spillover from Syria's civil war. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
08/24/2012 11:00 AM EDT
Refugee Numbers Soar
@ KenRoth :
UN reports 200,000 #Syria refugees, 30,000 in past week alone. Many more internally displaced not counted. http://t.co/BaM6u59j
08/23/2012 2:00 PM EDT
Syrian boy Musataf Alhafiz, 11, who fled his home with his family due to fighting between the Syrian army and the rebels, carries his brother Saif, 9 months, while he and others take refuge at the Bab Al-Salameh border crossing, in hopes of entering one of the refugee camps in Turkey, near the Syrian town of Azaz, Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012. Thousands of Syrians who have been displaced by the country's civil war are struggling to find safe shelter while shelling and airstrikes by government forces continue. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)
08/23/2012 12:09 PM EDT
Heaviest Bombardment This Month
Helicopter gunships shelled Damascus on Wednesday as Syrian security forces intensified their assault on the capital. Activists report that at least 47 people were killed.
"The whole of Damascus is shaking with the sound of shelling," a woman in the neighborhood of Kfar Souseh told Reuters.
Read more on HuffPost World.