Ahmadinejad and Assad accuse the Americans of trying to dominate Middle East
Iran and Syria put on a show of defiant unity today, scorning US efforts to break up their alliance and warning Israel not to risk attacking either of them.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, flew to Damascus for talks with Bashar al-Assad days after the US appointed an ambassador to Syria after a five-year gap – a move seen by some as the start of a diplomatic thaw.
"The Americans want to dominate the region but they feel Iran and Syria are preventing that," Ahmadinejad said during a press conference with Assad.
"We tell them that instead of interfering in the region's affairs to pack their things and leave. If the Zionist entity wants to repeats its past errors, its death will be inevitable."
Assad made clear that Syria would not distance itself from Iran, its ally since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. "We hope that others don't give us lessons about our region and our history," he said. "We are the ones who decide ... and we know our interests. We thank them for their advice. I find it strange how they talk about Middle East stability and at the same time talk about dividing two countries."
Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, said yesterday that the US was troubled by Syria's relationship with Iran and characterised the appointment of an ambassador as a "slight opening". Ties between Washington and Damascus were downgraded after the murder of the former Lebanese prime minister, Rafiq al-Hariri, in 2005 was blamed on Syria.
Al-Jazeera reported that Ahmadinejad also met Khaled Mash'al, the Damascus-based leader of the Palestinian movement Hamas, and Ramadan Shallah of Islamic Jihad, both of which are supported by Tehran. Links between Hamas and Iran have been highlighted by the killing of the Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, by an alleged Israeli hit squad in Dubai.
Two years ago the military leader of Lebanon's Hizbullah, Imad Mughniyeh, was assassinated in Damascus in an attack that was also blamed on Israel's secret service, the Mossad. It was not clear whether Ahmadinejad was also meeting Hassan Nasrallah, the Hizbullah leader.
Syria and Iran announced they were cancelling visa restrictions between their countries. "We must have understood Clinton wrong because of bad translation or our limited understanding, so we signed the agreement to cancel the visas," Assad said.
Syria was prepared for any Israeli aggression, he said. Talks between the two countries over the Golan Heights, captured by Israel in 1967, broke down in 2008 and show no sign of resuming.
Syria has also offered to mediate between Iran and the west over Tehran's controversial nuclear programme but says it opposes any sanctions.
Clinton said the US wanted Syria "generally to begin to move away from the relationship with Iran, which is so deeply troubling to the region as well as to the United States".
|Liveleak on Facebook|