Syrian President due in Iran

(www.afp.com) вЂ" Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is to visit Iran, his closest regional ally, for talks with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other Iranian leaders, state television said.

Assad was expected in Tehran at around 3:00 pm (1130 GMT) for his second trip to the Islamic republic since Ahmadinejad took power in August 2005.

The television said Assad would be discussing strengthening bilateral ties and the situation in the Middle East region, in particular the instability in Lebanon and Iraq.

Assad was the first world leader to visit Ahmadinejad following his election victory -- just five days after he took office -- and relations have remained robust ever since.

Ahmadinejad said after Assad's last visit that the strong relations between Iran and Syria "makes our enemies angry," in a reference to the United States, reports Trend.

The Iranian president visited Damascus in January 2006, where he held talks with Assad and the Syria-based political leaders of Palestinian militant groups.

Assad's latest visit to Tehran comes at a time when both Syria and Iran have been accused by the US of "meddling" in the region. Both vehemently deny the charges.

Washington accuses the two countries of helping stir up insecurity in Iraq by supporting insurgents and allowing militants to cross their borders.

Damascus has also been accused of fomenting the violence which has dogged Lebanon since the assassination of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri in 2005, while Tehran stands accused of arming the militant Shiite group Hezbollah.

Syria is a staunch supporter of Iran's controversial nuclear programme, which the US alleges is cover for making nuclear weapons. Iran insists its atomic drive is solely aimed at generating energy.

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