Iran General NewsIran and Syria stress ties amid rumors

Iran and Syria stress ties amid rumors

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AP: Syria’s President Bashar Assad accused the “enemies” of Islamic countries of trying to sow discord, Iranian state television’s Web site reported Sunday after the Syrian leader ended his visit to Iran. Associated Press

By NASSER KARIMI

Associated Press Writer

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) – Syria’s President Bashar Assad accused the “enemies” of Islamic countries of trying to sow discord, Iranian state television’s Web site reported Sunday after the Syrian leader ended his visit to Iran.

Assad’s visit, his fifth since taking office in 2000, comes at a time when some Arab diplomats have said Syria feels betrayed by Iran because of a joint Iranian-Saudi Arabian effort to clamp down on sectarian tensions in Iraq and violence in Lebanon. Syria has largely alienated many of its traditional Arab allies but has had close ties to Iran for years.

Arab observers have said there are also newfound tensions between majority Shiite Iran and majority Sunni Syria over their differing interests in Iraq.

“The creation of a rift among Muslims is their latest weapon, which is more dangerous than their previous plans,” the state television site quoted Assad as saying. The site did not elaborate on who those “enemies” might be, but during his two-day trip the Syrian president also accused the U.S. and Israel of having “ominous aims.”

Assad, who is a member of the ruling Syrian Alawite sect that is an offshoot of Shiite Islam, met Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani.

Ahmadinejad described Assad’s visit as fruitful and called for greater cooperation between their countries. “Current situations in the region, especially in Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon and Afghanistan, have doubled the need for cooperation and coordination between Iran and Syria, particularly to confront plots by enemies,” state television’s Web site reported him as saying.

The U.S. has accused Syria of not doing enough to prevent militants from crossing its border into Iraq and has blamed Iran for supporting Shiite militias in attacks that have killed American troops. U.S. officials also accuse Iran and Syria of interfering in Lebanon and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict through supporting Hezbollah and Hamas, both of which the U.S. considers terrorist groups.

Assad’s visit comes days ahead of a U.N. deadline regarding Iran’s nuclear program. In December, the council gave Iran 60 days to halt uranium enrichment, otherwise it will consider taking additional measures beyond the sanctions in place. Enrichment is necessary to produce fuel for nuclear reactors, but also to make nuclear weapons.

The United States and several of its Western allies believe that Iran is using the nuclear program to produce an atomic weapon; Iran says its aim is to generate electricity.

As tensions rise over the nuclear standoff with the West, the United States and Iran have pursued an escalating series of military moves, with Washington sending more aircraft carriers to the region and Iran responding with more frequent maneuvers.

The official Islamic Republic News Agency reported Sunday that the elite Revolutionary Guards will launch their second war games in a month on Monday.

“The guards will practice various kinds of fighting tactics including tactics of asymmetrical warfare,” the report said without elaborating.

The Revolutionary Guards is an elite military corps with more than 200,000 members and its own naval and air forces. It oversees vital interests such as oil and natural gas installations and the nation’s missile arsenal.

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