Iran Nuclear NewsIran briefs ally Syria on standoff with West

Iran briefs ally Syria on standoff with West

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ImageAP: Iran's foreign minister briefed Syria's president Thursday on the international standoff over his country's nuclear program.

The Associated Press

By ALBERT AJI

ImageDAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Iran's foreign minister briefed Syria's president Thursday on the international standoff over his country's nuclear program.

The meeting in Damascus signaled Syria's willingness to act on a request by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to try to help resolve the crisis by pushing Iran to cooperate with the international community.

Iran's foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, welcomed a Syrian role in trying to ease the tension, Syria's official SANA news agency reported. Speaking at a news conference, he added that Iran has always kept the Syrians informed of developments in the standoff with the United States and its European allies.

Sarkozy met with Syrian President Bashar Assad at a summit of European nations and other countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea last weekend in Paris. The French president asked Assad to step in and persuade Iran to offer proof that it has no intention of developing nuclear weapons.

Iran's assurances that it only wants nuclear technology for the production of energy have failed to quell suspicions that it is seeking a pathway to an atomic bomb.

Assad promised to relay the request from France to Tehran, but expressed doubts that his intervention would help, despite his country's close ties with Iran.

On Thursday, Assad stressed his view that "dialogue and diplomacy are the only way to settle this issue," SANA reported.

The visiting Iranian foreign minister also met with his Syrian counterpart, Walid al-Moallem, who said at a joint news conference that Iran's peaceful intention "was confirmed to us by our brothers in Iran."

Al-Moallem was also asked by a reporter how his country's indirect peace negotiations with Israel might impact Syria's relations with Iran, whose president has called for Israel to be wiped off the map.

Al-Moallem said the "strategic alliance" between Syria and Iran was strong and would not be shaken by the possibility of a peace treaty with Israel.

Mottaki expressed Iran's support for Syria's aims in the Turkish-mediated peace talks, namely the return of the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau that Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war.

"We support the Syrian president's stand in recovering the occupied land," Mottaki said.

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