Saturday, October 09, 2004

Iran, Syria Need Cooperation for Stability in ME: Khatami

Iran, Syria Need Cooperation for Stability in ME: Khatami: "Iran, Syria Need Cooperation for Stability in ME: Khatami

Reuters, Agence France Presse, Arab News

DAMASCUS/TOKYO, 9 October 2004 — Iranian President Mohammad Khatami said on Thursday Syria and Iran had to cooperate for the sake of stability in the Middle East and in the face of pressure from the United States. “These pressures have always existed and we have to neutralize them through our cooperation,” the official news agencies of both countries reported Khatami as saying in Damascus at the start of his visit to Syria.

Khatami’s visit comes at a time when Tehran and Damascus are facing mounting US pressure over allegedly seeking to acquire weapons of mass destruction and for supporting anti-Israeli occupation groups. Tehran says it will not give in to foreign pressure to halt what it calls a peaceful nuclear energy program but which the United States says is a covert scheme to build nuclear bombs.

Khatami said his talks with Syrian President Bashar Assad would focus on ways of maintaining stability in the Middle East in view of escalated Israeli violence and developments in neighboring Iraq. Both Syria and Iran strongly opposed the US-led invasion of Iraq. “In our meetings we will try to cooperate toward ensuring calm and stability in the crisis-ridden Middle East region,” Khatami said. “The situation is getting more perilous because of the inhuman and violent actions of the Zionist regime.”

Syria’s official news agency later reported the two presidents discussed Israel’s “inhuman operations” against Palestinians and emphasized the importance of a united and independent Iraq.

Syria’s support for Palestinian and Lebanese resistance groups and allegations Damascus was pursuing weapons of mass destruction were among key reasons behind US economic sanctions in May.

Washington also wants Syria to seal its border with Iraq because of anti-US occupation fighters and to pull its troops out of neighboring Lebanon where Damascus keeps around 14,000 soldiers under a bilateral deal with Beirut."

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