AFP: Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki voiced strong support for Syria Monday in its standoff with the West over a UN inquiry into the assassination of Lebanese former premier Rafiq Hariri as he made his first official visit to Tehran’s main Arab ally. DAMASCUS, Nov 14 (AFP) – Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki voiced strong support for Syria Monday in its standoff with the West over a UN inquiry into the assassination of Lebanese former premier Rafiq Hariri as he made his first official visit to Tehran’s main Arab ally.
“We discussed the matter of Rafiq Hariri’s murder. Syrian officials are handling this issue in a satisfactory way,” Mottaki told reporters after talks with President Bashar al-Assad.
“We want the UN commission of inquiry to continue its work on a legal basis and not politicise the case,” he said.
The Iranian minister hit out at US-led accusations that Syria was withholding its cooperation, saying they were one of a number of “suspect manoeuvrings by the United States in the region”.
“The United States is pursuing its own expansionist, hegemonic goals in several parts of the region,” he charged, adding that he had discussed the issue with his Syrian counterpart Faruq al-Shara.
On Iraq, Mottaki said he had agreed with Shara that “the political process must continue and the Iraqi people be allowed to decide their own destiny”.
“We discussed the various options facing Iraq’s neighbours and we’re going to study them in the most serious way and support everything that’s in the interests of the Iraqi people,” he said.
Both Iran and Syria have been accused by the United States of taking insufficient action to prevent armed opponents of the US-led coalition from slipping into Iraq.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Sunday lumped Syria and Iran in his own “axis of evil”, urging stepped-up international efforts to contain the two regimes.
The Israeli leader, who was speaking at a meeting also attended by visiting US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, said the axis was now headed by Tehran and Damascus, “which are ruled by irresponsible leaders, who take extreme stands which threaten the stability of the area”.
Damascus has said it is being targeted by an international witch-hunt.
Mottaki was due to hold later talks with Prime Minister Mohammed Naji Otri on boosting economic ties.