Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

New Iranian President Vows Support for Syria Leader

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

New Iranian President Vows Support for Syria Leader

Article excerpt

BEIRUT -- Iran's new president expressed his country's support to Syria's embattled leader Bashar Assad's regime Sunday, saying no force in the world will be able to shake their decades-old alliance.

Hasan Rouhani's comments came as Syrian troops and rebels fought some of the fiercest battles in the mountains of the coastal province of Latakia, an Assad stronghold.

Mr. Rouhani made the comments during a meeting in the Iranian capital of Tehran on Sunday with Syrian Prime Minister Wael al- Halqi, Syria's state news agency SANA said. Syria has been Tehran's strongest ally in the Arab world since Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Iran has been one of Mr. Assad's staunchest backers since Syria's crisis began. Tehran is believed to have supplied Mr. Assad's government with billions of dollars since the country's crisis began in March 2011. Iran-supported Hezbollah also has sent fighters into Syria to bolster an offensive by Assad forces.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran aims to strengthen its relations with Syria and will stand by it in facing all challenges," SANA quoted Mr. Rouhani as saying in a report from Tehran. "The deep, strategic and historic relations between the people of Syria and Iran ... will not be shaken by any force in the world."

Mr. Rouhani was elected in June and was endorsed by the country's supreme leader Saturday, allowing him to begin acting as president. He was sworn in Sunday.

Mr. Assad on Sunday evening said "terrorism cannot be dealt with politically but should be struck with an iron fist."

Mr. Assad's troops have achieved victories in the past two months, mostly near the capital Damascus and in the strategic central province of Homs that links the capital Damascus with Mr. Assad's strongholds on the coast.

Mr. Assad said his army, which was built to fight a conventional war against its main enemy Israel, has been able to adapt to the guerrilla warfare it is facing.

Mr. Rouhani condemned foreign intervention in Syria, saying that the Arab country is passing through a "failed attempt" to strike at the "axis of resistance and rejection to Zionist-American plans in the region," SANA quoted him as saying. …

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