Reuters: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad discussed instability in Iraq and the crisis in Lebanon with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the start of a two-day visit to Iran on Saturday, the official IRNA news agency said. TEHRAN (Reuters) – Syrian President Bashar al-Assad discussed instability in Iraq and the crisis in Lebanon with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the start of a two-day visit to Iran on Saturday, the official IRNA news agency said.
The visit is Assad’s second since Ahmadinejad took office in 2005. He will meet Iran’s most powerful figure, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on Sunday.
Both Syria and Iran are at loggerheads with the United States, Damascus over its alleged role in the 2004 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri and Tehran over its disputed atomic work.
“America’s policies have failed in the region … By creating divisions among Muslim nations, Washington wants to pursue its aims,” IRNA quoted Assad as saying during his meeting with Ahmadinejad, who urged “Muslim countries to preserve unity”.
The United States accuses Syria and non-Arab, Shi’ite Iran of fomenting tension in Iraq by allowing insurgents to cross into the country and providing them with financial help.
Tehran and Damascus deny the charge, saying they are doing their utmost to control their long and porous borders with Iraq.
Iraq shut its borders with Iran and Syria on Wednesday for 72 hours as part of a security crackdown. Iraqi officials said on Saturday there would be a gradual re-opening.
The United States has also accused Syria, Iran and Hezbollah, a Lebanese guerrilla group backed by those countries, of trying to bring down Lebanon’s Western-backed government.
Ahmadinejad said the United States was backing the interests of Iran and Syria’s arch-foe Israel at the expense of Muslim countries in the Middle East.
“America claims that it wants to restore peace and stability in the region … But America’s aim is to strengthen the Zionist regime (Israel) and its own position,” he said.
Ahmadinejad praised an agreement by rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah to form a unity government.
“Dispute among Muslim factions has always been harmful for regional nations and useful for Islam’s enemies,” he said.
Washington has warned Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that peace talks with Israel will go nowhere if his Fatah faction joins the agreed unity government with Hamas.
Syria is a staunch supporter of Iran’s disputed atomic work which Western powers say is aimed at building atomic weapons. Iran says the program is solely to generate energy.
In December Iran was hit with a U.N. sanctions resolution, which bans transfers of sensitive nuclear materials and expertise to the country.