Assad: Peace talks aimed only to help Obama politically

Ahmadinejad pledges to "expand resistance"; Assad says "strategic relationship necessary for independence and stability of Middle East."

Assad Ahmadinejad Medal 311 AP (photo credit: Associated Press)
Assad Ahmadinejad Medal 311 AP
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Syrian President Bashar Assad offered dim hopes on Saturday for any success in Middle East peace talks, saying the White House is using its mediation between Israelis and Palestinians only to score political points in the United States.
The comments by Assad – making a one-day visit to Teheran – followed talks with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Both leaders pledged to support “resistance” in the region, an apparent reference to Palestinian terrorists and others opposing Israel.
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Government sources in Jerusalem said there were “unfortunately no surprises” in the comments that emerged from Assad’s visit to Teheran.
“The axis between Teheran and Damascus is a major cause of concern and instability in the region,” one official said. “We don’t think people should have any illusions as to the nature of that alliance.”
The trip came two weeks after Ahmadinejad traveled to Syria, signaling Iran’s concerns about US efforts to pry Damascus away from its alliance with Teheran.
Iran and Syria are both key sponsors of Hizbullah and Hamas.
Assad said the current attempt at dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians have brought “no change” and claimed that President Barack Obama only seeks a political boost.
“The talks are only aimed at supporting Obama’s position inside the US,” Assad said in his first public comments about the process since the latest round of negotiations began last month.
Last week, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem told The Wall Street Journal that a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace would be doomed without an Israeli commitment to first freeze any new construction in disputed territories.
Syria-based radical Palestinian factions condemned the peace talks, saying Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas does not represent all the Palestinian people and calling on him to stop the talks.
Iranian state TV quoted Ahmadinejad as saying he and Assad agreed on the need to “expand resistance” in the region.
Assad was awarded Iran’s highest national medal for his support of Palestinian gunmen and Hizbullah in Lebanon.
“The Syrian government and nation, at the forefront of resistance, have for years stood up against the expansionism and aggression of the Zionist regime,” Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency.
Assad, meanwhile, said the two countries’ “strategic relationship is necessary for the independence and the stability of the Middle East.”
Assad’s talks in Iran also are expected to touch on the effects of international sanctions on Teheran and the political struggles in neighboring Iraq.
Syria and Iran wield considerable influence in Iraq among different groups – Syria with Sunnis and Iran among Shi’ites. Iraq has been locked in political stalemate since March elections, but Shi’ite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki appears close to winning support to remain in power.