Syria and Iran vow to build ‘common front’
* US says both countries misreading international community
TEHRAN: Iran and Syria, both locked in rows with the United States, said on Wednesday they would form a common front to face challenges and threats.
“We are ready to help Syria on all grounds to confront threats,” Iranian Vice-President Mohammad Reza Aref said in Tehran after meeting Syrian Prime Minister Naji al-Otari. Otari told reporters: “This meeting, which takes place at this sensitive time, is important, especially because Syria and Iran face several challenges and it is necessary to build a common front”.
Syria’s ambassador to the United States, asked by CNN what the common front with Iran entailed, stressed that it was not an anti-American alliance and said Syria was trying to improve its relations with Washington.
“Today we do not want to form a front against anybody, particularly not against the United States,” Imad Moustapha said.
“Syria is trying to engage constructively with the United States ... We are not the enemies of the United States, and we do not want to be drawn into such an enmity,” he added. The White House said on Wednesday that Iran and Syria were “misreading” the international community if their vow to form a united front against foreign threats was aimed at the United States.
Spokesman Scott McClellan said “it wasn’t clear” whether Tehran and Damascus, which are locked in separate diplomatic bouts with Washington, were referring to the United States. But “if they’re talking about the United States, you know, I think that it’s a fundamental misreading of the issue,” McClellan told reporters as Bush traveled here to push his domestic agenda.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice declined Wednesday to say when her recalled ambassador would return to Syria and suggested it might require conciliatory actions from Damascus.
Testifying before a Senate committee, Rice kept up the pressure on Syria, which Washington believes was at least indirectly responsible for the assassination Monday of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri.
It’s indeterminate at this point,” she said. “But we will make known that there are steps that we would like to see taken” by the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad. agencies