Syria’s Assad in Iran for talks on Iraq

TEHRAN (Reuters) – Syrian President Bashar al-Assad arrived in Iran on Saturday to discuss instability in Iraq and the crisis in Lebanon, the official IRNA news agency reported.

During his two-day visit, Assad will hold talks with top Iranian officials, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, it said.

“Bilateral, international and regional issues, particularly Iraq and the Lebanon crisis will be discussed during the visit,” IRNA said of Assad’s visit to Iran, Syria’s closest ally in the Middle East.

The United States accuses Iran and Syria of fomenting tension in Iraq by allowing insurgents to enter Iraq and providing financial help to them.

Tehran and Damascus deny the charge, saying they are doing their utmost to control their long and porous borders with Iraq.

Iraq shut its borders with Iran and Syria on Wednesday for 72 hours as part of a security crackdown. Iraqi officials said there would be a gradual re-opening.

The United States has also accused Syria, Iran and Hezbollah, a Lebanese guerrilla group backed by those countries, of trying to bring down Lebanon’s elected government.

The United States suspects Syria of being involved in the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri. A U.N. investigation has implicated Syrian security officials in Hariri’s killing. Damascus denies any involvement.

Syria is a staunch supporter of Iran’s disputed atomic work which Western powers say is aimed at building atomic weapons. Iran says its program is solely to generate energy.

Iran was hit with a December U.N. sanctions resolution, which bans transfers of sensitive nuclear materials and expertise to the country.

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