Ahmadinejad warns: Enemies will be “burned”


Damascus : Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad voiced his support for Lebanon's militant Shiite Muslim movement Hezbollah during an official state visit to Syria, warning "enemies of the region" to abandon hostile plans or risk being "burned".

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"The enemies of the region should abandon plans to attack the interests of this region, or they would be burned by the wrath of the region's peoples," Ahmadinejad said Thursday at a joint press conference with Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Ahmadinejad welcomed what he called Hezbollah's victory over Israel during weeks of fighting a year ago, and called for a similar victory this summer.

Later, Ahmadinejad met Shiite cleric Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Hezbollah, and the Iranian leader declared that "the Zionist entity has become weaker" than ever before.

After meeting Nasrallah, Ahmadinejad expressed hope for stability in the near future in Lebanon.

Ahmadinejad described Syrian-Iranian relations as "amicable, excellent and extremely deep", with the two countries sharing common regional policies.

Assad said that their talks "covered the situation in Iraq, which is a priority for the region in general, Palestine and the latest development in the Palestinian arena, and ways of restoring dialogue among all Palestinian factions".

A final statement from Assad and Ahmadinejad said that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) must handle Iran's nuclear activities.

The statement stressed the "right of the countries (adhering to) the non-proliferation treaty to the peaceful use of nuclear power".

The two sides voiced support for the Iraqi government and underlined the necessity to preserve Iraq's territorial unity. They called for the departure of all occupation forces and expressed support to all efforts that aim to achieve security, stability and national reconciliation in Iraq.

The Syrian and Iranian presidents urged all Palestinian factions to return to dialogue to preserve the unity of the Palestinian people.

Politically, Ahmadinejad's one-day visit in Damascus appears to be an act of defiance to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who has called on Syria to cut relations with Iran as a condition for restarting the Syrian part of the Israeli-Arab peace process, deadlocked since 2000.

Syrian officials have rejected the Israeli demand, stressing that Syria's relations with Iran are a non-negotiable matter of sovereignty.

Syria is Iran's closest Arab ally. The two countries have had close relations since 1980, when Syria sided with Persian Iran against Arab Iraq in the 1980-88 Gulf War.

Both countries face US accusations of fuelling violence in Iraq and supporting Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrilla militia, which Washington labels a terrorist organisation. Iran and Syria are also accused of supporting militant Palestinian groups including the Islamic movement Hamas.

Ahmadinejad met leaders of Damascus-based Palestinian militant factions, including Khaled Mashaal, top Hamas leader in exile in Damascus.

He was also due to visit the shrine of Sayyedah Zeinab, granddaughter of the Prophet Mohammed.