(TEHRAN, Iran) -- Tehran is calling on Turkey and Qatar to help secure the release of about four dozen Iranian pilgrims who were abducted in Syria.
Iran hopes that these countries' support of rebel forces, who are believed to be responsible for the kidnapping, will facilitate the pilgrims' safe return.
According to Iran's state-run Press TV, a group of gunmen took over a busload of pilgrims headed from the airport in Damascus to a nearby Shiite shrine.
However, the rebels alleged that the pilgrims were in reality members of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard and were sent to help the Syrian military.
Throughout the 17-month conflict in Syria, Iran has been one of the few countries in the region that has openly backed the government of President Bashar al-Assad. Tehran, however, has denied deploying any of its forces in Syria.
Turkey and Qatar support the opposition seeking to overthrowal-Assad. The rebels are mostly made up of citizens from Syria's Sunni majority.
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