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Iran, a close ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad , denied recent reports that it has been in direct contact with the Syrian opposition, the semi-official Fars news agency said Saturday.

Fars quoted the Islamic Republic’s embassy in Damascus as saying that “Contact with the political opposition of the Syrian ruling system is not on the Islamic Republic of Iran’s agenda.

“If any such move is taken, it will certainly be carried out through full coordination with Syrian officials,” the embassy added.

This comes after several separate opposition sources have told The Daily Telegraph on November 14 that Iran opened a channel to a “moderate” opposition group about a month ago.

Officials met Haytham Manna and other members of a group known as the National Coordinating Body for Democratic Change, or the National Coordinating Committee.

The group is strongly opposed to foreign intervention in Syria, and is likely to be seen as more acceptable to Iran than the largest group, the Syrian National Council, which has argued for “international protection” for civilians.

“Iran used Haytham Manna to prepare for an opposition conference,” one opposition journalist said. But he said the attempt failed as “no one trusted Iran”.

Iran’s leaders have backed President Assad, its key regional ally, against the protesters in the face of criticism from some of their own followers, but Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has recently shown signs of becoming frustrated with Assad. In August he called for the Syrian government to sit down with the opposition; by last month he was directly demanding Mr Assad implement reform.

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