by our Arab Affairs correspondent

SYRIAN troops have overrun rebel positions in Aleppo in the battle to defeat the imperialist-backed militias that are taking the country to the brink of civil war. Syrian tanks have broken through the front line in the rebel-held district of Aleppo and a number of Turkish and Saudi officers have been captured during the fighting.

But the Damascus TV and Radio centre was rocked by a terrorist bomb on Monday and clashes between the Syrian army and Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda gangs are continuing in other parts of the country.

Meanwhile the Syrian premier has been sacked and has reportedly fled to Jordan. And Iran has vowed to continue to back Syria as part of the “axis of resistance” of the oppressed in the Middle East.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad vowed on Tuesday to crush the 17-month rebellion and to cleanse Syria of "terrorists," as his troops pushed forward to drive the imperialist-backed militias out of their last pockets in Aleppo.

"The Syrian people and their government are determined to purge the country of terrorists and to fight the terrorists without respite," he said during talks with visiting senior Iranian envoy Saeed Jalili, a top aide of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei Jalili, the Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, pledged continued Iranian support, saying that the Islamic Republic would "never allow the resistance axis — of which Syria is an essential pillar — to break.

"What is happening in Syria is not an internal issue but a conflict between the axis of resistance on the one hand, and the regional and global enemies of this axis on the other," he added. Jalili called for an end to "all foreign intervention" in Syria, adding that Iran rejects "any party imposing its will through military intervention”.

Iran has accused Turkey and Gulf Arab countries of arming the Syrian opposition in collusion with the United States and Israel, to overthrow the Assad government.

And Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi has arrived in Ankara to tell the Turks to use their influence to obtain the release of 48 Iranian Shia pilgrims seized by the Syrian rebels last weekend.

The whereabouts of Riad Hijab, appointed as prime minister less than two months ago, remain unknown following his dismissal this week. The rebels claim that Hijab fled with his family and two other ministers to Jordan to join them. But two of the ministers who had supposedly defected have now appeared on Syrian TV amid Damascus reports that Hijab was sacked because he opposed a new billion-dollar oil deal with Russia.

One report quoted one of Hijab's brothers as saying that after declining to sign the agreements with the Russians, Hijab fled as he feared being arrested on charges of undermining the Syrian economy.

Rebel statements have to be taken with a pinch of salt despite their constant repetition in the bourgeois media. This week a Russian general, Vladimir Kuzheyev, appeared on Moscow TV to refute “Free Syrian Army” claims that he had been killed in the fighting in Damascus last month.

But the rebels have now openly admitted that they’re being funded by the feudal Arab rulers of Qatar and Saudi Arabia and the US puppet regime in Libya. An official for the “Syrian National Council” told the French Europe 1 radio station that "the rebels on the ground desperately need weapons wherever they can find them" and said they used the money to buy arms on the black market.

And now the US Treasury Department has cleared the way for Americans to buy weapons to send to Syria by donating money to the so-called “Syrian Support Group”. The Washington-based group has been legally granted a rare licence to collect money for arms and other equipment to the “Free Syrian Army” to overthrow the Assad government.

This move follows reports that President Obama signed a secret order earlier in the year allowing the CIA and other intelligence agencies to support the rebels.

The US has also called on the international community to aid the Syrian rebels within the framework of the “Friends of Syria” group, with member states agreeing to significantly bolster help for the Syrian opposition.