President Bashar Assad on Thursday inaugurated the first stage of a joint Syrian-Iranian automobile factory, test-driving one of the new cars and declaring that the project will boost cooperation between the allies. With Iranian Vice president Parviz Davoodi on hand for the ceremony at the Syrian-Iranian Company for Manufacturing Cars, Assad called the project a testament of the "historic" cooperation between the two countries. "Our political relations are rooted, old and excellent," he told reporters. "This project comes in the framework of boosting economic cooperation between the two countries ... we are proud of this project." Marketing of the car, under the brand-name "Sham," the old Arabic name for Syria, will start in April, plant manager Ziad Kattini said. Some 10,000 cars are expected to be produced annually, with 40 rolling off the production line each day during the plant's initial phase.