Syrian President Awarded Iran's Medal of Honor

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TEHRAN - During his official state visit to Tehran on Saturday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad received Iran's highest national award in recognition of his support for the Palestinians, Lebanon and his rejection of "global arrogance," Reuters reported.

Saturday's visit was Assad's eighth to the Islamic Republic and his fifth since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took office in August 2005.

"We have stood beside Iran in a brotherly way from the very beginning of the [Iranian Islamic] revolution," Assad said during his one-day visit.

In a ceremony broadcast on Iranian state-run television, Ahmadinejad presented Assad with the Islamic Republic's Medal of Honor.

"We are two governments and nations that are brothers," Ahmadinejad told Assad as they raised clasped hands in solidarity.

"If it were not for Syria's resistance against the Zionist regime [Israel] and its supporters, no country in our region would have remained safe from the Zionists' aggression and there would be no sign of Palestinian resistance," he said.

"Re-invigorating the front of resistance will not only persuade other countries and nations to join the front, but also pave the ground for the consolidation and stabilization of peace in the region," he said.

"Syria is a benefactor to Muslims, Arabs and even to humanity," Ahmadinejad said.

In response, Assad acknowledged "the continuing and eternal stance of Syria to be on the side of Iran."

"The two countries' close and continuing contacts are in the interest of the region," Assad said, while the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians are only meant to improve U.S. President Barack Obama's popularity at home.

"The negotiations follow no goal, but are merely intended to improve the Obama administration's image domestically," Assad contended.

Ahmadinejad to Visit Beirut

Meanwhile in Beirut, United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon Michael Williams told Iranian Ambassador to Beirut Qazanfar Roknabadi on Friday that Ahmadinejad's upcoming visit to Lebanon, scheduled for October 13, "is of paramount importance," Fars news reported.

Williams said he hoped the visit would bear "good fruits" both for Iran and Lebanon.

Ahmadinejad will meet with Lebanese President Michel Suleiman, Prime Minister Sa'ad Hariri, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and leaders of the Lebanese-based terror group, Hezbollah.

According to Fars, Williams lauded Ahmadinejad's intent to meet with all of Lebanon's religious and political parties, calling it "vitally important" that Iran use "the same comprehensive approach" that has yielded "constructive effects" on Lebanon's "internal development."

Roknabadi cited Lebanon's regional importance and reiterated Iran's full support for "friendly and close" ties that promote Lebanon's security, tranquility and unity.

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