Syrian President in Iran to discuss `Iraq and Palestine`

Syria and Iran wield considerable influence in Iraq among different groups.

Tehran: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad met his Iranian counterpart and staunch ally Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran on Saturday, with Lebanon, Iraq and Palestinian issues topping the agenda, media reports said.

Assad was greeted by a guard of honour before holding talks with Ahmadinejad behind closed doors "to discuss bilateral and regional issues, including Lebanon, Iraq and Palestine”, a report by ISNA news agency said.

The Syrian President was later due to hold talks with the Islamic republic`s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other senior officials, Iran`s English-language Press TV reported on its website.

Assad`s visit comes just days after former Iraqi prime minister Iyad Allawi said he asked Syria to persuade Iran to keep out of his protracted battle for the premiership with incumbent Nouri al-Maliki after inconclusive elections in March.

On September 29, Allawi in a press conference in Damascus accused Iran of "interfering in Iraqi affairs”.

"We have been asking leaders who have good relations with Iran to ask it not to interfere in Iraqi affairs and we discussed this with President Assad," Allawi said.

Assad had "promised to make every effort for Iraq and the region`s stability," he added.

The Syrian leader`s visit also precedes Ahmadinejad`s trip later this month to Lebanon, where Iran`s ally Hezbollah is locked in a bitter war of words with Prime Minister Saad Hariri about a UN-backed court`s probe into the assassination of his father, Rafiq Hariri, in 2005.

Assad is accompanied by Syrian Vice President Faruq al-Shara and Foreign Minister Walid Muallem.

The ISNA report said Ahmadinejad would present a "medal of valour" to the Syrian President, who previously travelled to Iran in August 2009.

Bureau Report