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(photo credit: AP [file])
Syria on Sunday denied any rift between Damascus and Iran during a visit to Teheran by Syrian President Bashar Assad, who accused the "enemies" of Islamic countries of trying to sow discord.
Assad's visit, his fifth since taking office in 2000, comes at a time when some Arab diplomats have said Syria feels betrayed by Iran because of a joint Iranian-Saudi Arabian effort to clamp down on sectarian tensions in Iraq and violence in Lebanon. Syria has largely alienated many of its traditional Arab allies but has had close ties to Iran for years.
Arab observers have said there are also newfound tensions between majority Shi'ite Iran and majority Sunni Syria over their differing interests in Iraq.
"The creation of a rift among Muslims is their latest weapon, which is more dangerous than their previous plans," Assad was quoted as saying on the Iranian state television's Web site on Sunday, a day after the Syrian leader ended his visit to Iran. The site did not elaborate on who those "enemies" might be, but during his two-day trip the Syrian president also accused the US and Israel of having "ominous aims."
During his visit, Assad, who is Alawite, the ruling sect in Syria that is an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam, met Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani.
Ahmadinejad described Assad's visit as fruitful and called for greater cooperation between their countries.
"Current situations in the region, especially in Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon and Afghanistan, have doubled the need for cooperation and coordination between Iran and Syria, particularly to confront plots by enemies," state television's Web site reported Ahmadinejad as saying.
The Al-Baath newspaper of Syria's ruling Baath party also insisted Sunday that the relationship between Syria and Iran was still strong even if their views were not identical on all issues.
In a published editorial, the newspaper said the two countries generally agree when it comes to the Arab-Israeli conflict and the situation in Iraq. About Iraq, Al-Baath wrote, "Though their visions are not identical on everything, they however agree on two basic issues; Iraqi unity and the departure of the occupation forces, and the support of the political process in Iraq."