Iran's foreign ministry on Monday denied the Islamic republic had any Revolutionary Guards in Syria, affirming that media reports quoting the head of the Guards saying that had been published out of context.
"The comments citing General (Mohammed Ali) Jafari on the presence of Guards in Syria were selective and incorrect... and they are not in any way valid," ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told Iran's Arabic-language Al-Alam television.
"Iran does not have any military presence in the region, especially in Syria," he said.
General Jafari, in a very rare news conference in Tehran on Sunday, had said that members of the Guards' elite Quds Force were in Syria and Lebanon as advisors -- and asserting that they did not constitute a "military presence."
"A number of Quds Force members are present in Syria and Lebanon. But it does not mean that we have a military presence there. We provide them with counsel and advice, and transfer experience to them," Jafari told the press and television reporters for Iranian and a few foreign news outlets.
"We provide them with our experience, while other countries are not shy of supporting terrorist groups," he said, using the epithet Tehran and Damascus employ to designate Syria's rebels they say are armed by Western and Gulf Arab nations.
"It is our pride, as the supreme leader has said, to defend Syria which is part of (anti-Israel) resistance," Jafari said.
Jafari's comments were reported by Iranian news agencies, including the official outlet IRNA, ISNA and the news website of the Revolutionary Guards (Sepah News). They corresponded to an audio recording of the entire news conference made by AFP.
Lebanon on Monday said it had officially demanded that Iran explain Jafari's reported comments.