Iran FM visits Iraq to discuss Syria in first foreign trip

AFP , Sunday 8 Sep 2013

Iran is one of Al-Assad regime's staunchest supporters who oppose US plans for military intervention in Syria

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif travelled to neighbouring Iraq on Sunday on his first foreign visit since being appointed, with discussions on the Syria crisis topping the agenda.

"This trip aims to bring closer our points of views and to discuss regional and bilateral issues," Zarif told reporters before leaving Tehran on the one-day trip, the official IRNA news agency reported.

"We and our brothers and sisters in Iraq definitely share the same concerns regarding a new conflict being waged in our region," he added.

Iran, a staunch supporter of the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad, actively opposes plans by the US and France to launch a military strike against Damascus over its suspected use of chemical weapons in deadly attacks on August 21.

It also backs claims in Damascus that rebels, not the Assad regime, carried out the chemical attacks on Damascus suburbs, which killed hundreds of people.

According to the IRNA report, Zarif is scheduled to meet with his Iraqi counterpart Hoshyar Zebari as well as with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki among other Iraqi officials.

Zarif was also quoted as saying that Iran was "more worried" by the developments in Syria than other regional countries were.

"The warmongering is happening in our neighbourhood, which is an important issue and has made my visit to Iraq necessary," he said.

Zarif seized on US President Barack Obama's failure to win support for military action against Syria from world leaders during the G20 summit in Saint Petersburg.

"This shows the US and pro-war groups are faced with definite isolation in their pursuit of using war and illegal means to push forward their own foreign policy agenda," he said.

Tehran provides Damascus with material and intelligence support but denies accusations of arming the Assad regime to fight the conflict which began as a popular uprising in 2011 but has now evolved into a fully-fledged civil war that has claimed more than 110,000 lives.

Zarif was appointed foreign minister in President Hassan Rowhani's cabinet mid-August.

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