Syrian president meets Iranian leader

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Syrian President Bashar Assad met with Iranian leaders in Tehran on Sunday, Iranian and Syrian media reported, marking his second trip to major wartime ally Iran since Syria’s civil war erupted in 2011.

Nour News, a website close to Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, reported that Assad met Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Ebrahim Raisi. It said the leaders praised the strong ties between their nations and vowed to boost relations further. Assad was reported to have left Tehran for Damascus later on Sunday.

“Everybody now looks at Syria as a power,” Khamenei told Assad in the meeting, according to Iran’s semiofficial Tasnim news agency, believed to be close to the country’s powerful paramilitary Revolutionary Guard. ”The respect and credibility of Syria is now much more than before.”

Assad, for his part, said that strong relations be-tween Iran and Syria served as a bulwark against American and Israeli influence in the Middle East.

“America today is weaker than ever,” Syrian state news agency, SANA, quoted Assad as saying. “We should continue this track,” he added, praising Iran’s help in Syria’s “fight against terrorism.” In an apparent reference to a recent string of deadly attacks in Israel by Palestinian assailants, Assad also said that the Palestinian cause has again captured the world’s attention “because of the sacri-fices of the Palestinian resistance.” Iranian media published photos of Assad shaking hands warmly with Khamenei and grinning beside Raisi.

Assad has rarely travelled abroad since his gov-ernment’s crackdown on Syria’s civil unrest in 2011 led to a devastating civil war and made him a global pariah.—AP

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