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Syria’s Assad Says Peace Talks Aim at Boosting Obama’s Support

Direct peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians have the sole objective of enhancing President Barack Obama’s domestic prestige, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said during a one-day visit to Tehran.

“Nothing has progressed in the Palestinian peace process, and these talks have no aim but to get support for Obama inside the U.S.,” Assad said yesterday in a meeting with his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, according to state-run Fars news agency.

The Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that began Sept. 2 in Washington are at risk of collapse after Israel allowed a 10-month partial moratorium on the construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank to expire on Sept. 26. The Israeli government rebuffed international pressure, including a request from the U.S., its main ally, to extend the moratorium as a way of keeping Palestinians at the negotiating table.

“The Zionist regime has been exposed,” Ahmadinejad said, without elaborating, according to the report.

The two countries vowed to increase their political and economic cooperation, a stance that may irritate the U.S. as it seeks to improve relations with Syria while at the same time isolating Iran over the Persian Gulf country’s nuclear program.

“Although important steps have been taken to strengthen ties between the two countries, there is still a lot of potential, and this can benefit the two nations and the region,” Assad was quoted as saying by Fars.

Iran’s highest authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, reinforced this message when he met with the two presidents yesterday evening.

‘Axis of Resistance’

“The U.S. will not succeed in abolishing the axis of resistance in the region,” Khamenei said, according to a report published late yesterday by the state-run Mehr news agency. “Its effort will be pointless, as it has been before.”

Syria and Iran both support Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah movement. Israel and Hezbollah fought a monthlong war in the summer of 2006. Much of Hezbollah’s popularity among Arabs and Muslims more generally stems from its role in helping to force Israel to withdraw its army from Lebanon in 2000. The U.S. and Israel consider Hezbollah a terrorist organization.

Assad’s visit preceded a trip that Ahmadinejad plans to Lebanon later this month.

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