DAMASCUS  - Iran’s foreign minister met Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Wednesday, calling for a Syrian solution to the civil war, as a rights watchdog accused Damascus of waging “relentless, indiscriminate” attacks against its own people.

Speaking on arriving in Damascus, Ali Akbar Salehi said a solution to the 18-month conflict lies “only in Syria and within the Syrian family.” Salehi, who called this week for a simultaneous halt to the fighting by both regime and rebel forces, added this should be done in “partnership with international and regional organisations.”

Following their meeting, Assad said the war engulfing Syria was targeting not only it but the “axis of resistance,” a term Syria, Iran and Lebanon’s Shiite movement Hezbollah use to refer to their common opposition to Israel.

He also said “Syria has shown openness in dealing with all initiatives put forward to find a solution to the crisis. The key to any initiative’s success is the sincerity of the intentions behind it.” Meanwhile, rebels withdrew from three southern districts of Damascus after weeks of heavy combat and shelling, while the army bombarded districts of the city and adjacent areas, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

It said the army later stormed one of the districts from which the rebels had withdrawn, setting fire to homes.

The bodies of 11 people were found in the Jobar district of Damascus, some of them belonging to people who had been detained by security forces, the Observatory added.

In Aleppo, where the two-month-old battle for control of the commercial capital remains fluid, the army said rebels attacked several military positions in the east overnight and that helicopter gunships eventually drove them off.

In other developments, rebels gained control of a border crossing on the Turkish frontier after clashes with government troops, a Turkish official told AFP.

The Observatory said 43 people had been killed nationwide so far on Wednesday, including 30 civilians, after 173 died the previous day.

The United States on Wednesday accused a Belarus state-owned firm of supplying munitions to the Syrian government, as it announced new sanctions focused on the Syrian conflict.

The US Treasury named Belarus firm Belvneshpromservice and the Syrian military’s Army Supply Service for sanctions under US executive order 13382 that identifies targets as proliferators or supporters of proliferators of weapons of mass destruction.

The Treasury said Belvneshpromservice had supplied fuses for aerial bombs used by the Syrian military via the Army Supply Bureau. Meanwhile, the Army Supply Bureau was listed for sanctions for work with the Iranian military’s Iran Electronics Industries, which the Treasury said supplied electronic jamming equipment to Syria’s military.