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Syria's Leader In Iran To Firm Ties


Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (left) welcomed Iranian counterpart Mahmud Ahmedinejad to Damascus for a meeting in February 2010.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has arrived for an official visit to Iran, where he reportedly wants to reassure Tehran that its alliance with Damascus remains firm despite Syria's improved relations with the United States.

Al-Assad has met with Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad and other officials to talk about what were being described by Syria's official news agency as their countries' "exceptional ties."

Ahmadinejad's office posted a statement saying that al-Assad had dismissed direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks as merely an effort by U.S. President Barack Obama to boost domestic support ahead of midterm elections. The remarks were not immediately confirmed by al-Assad or other sources.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem met last week with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and al-Assad met before that with U.S. special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell to discuss hopes for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Obama has pursued improved relations with Damascus since early 2009.

But Reuters has quoted an unnamed U.S. official suggesting Washington is recently concerned about "Syria's activities inside Lebanon" and its relationship with Hizballah.

compiled from Reuters and other agency reports