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Ahmadinejad and Assad. Happier days?
Photo: Reuters
Iran tells Syria must regain control of Golan
Damascus anxiously trying to calm ruffled feathers in Tehran after announcing resumption of negotiations with Israel, dispatches defense minister to meet with Iranian leadership

Syrian Defense Minister Hassan Turkmani arrived in Tehran on Saturday evening as part of Damascus' bid to reassure its Iranian ally after resuming peace negotiations with Israel.

 

General Turkmani is scheduled to meet with his Iranian counterpart, Mustafa Mohammad-Najjar, and additional key figures in Tehran. A possible meeting with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has not yet been confirmed.

 

In a meeting he held earlier on Saturday with Hamas politburo chief, Khaled Mashaal, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki publically addressed the renewed talks for the first time.

 

"The Golan belongs to Syria and must be returned to its control. The Zionist regime must withdraw from the Golan, and we support Syrian efforts to repossess the Heights."

 

The Syrian defense minister's visit to Tehran follow reports of Ahmadinejad's outrage over the contact between Israel and Syria. Sources close to the Iranian president told the London-based Asharq al-Awsat daily that Ahmadinejad has made his discontent over the clandestine negotiations well known. He described the talks as a "flagrant violation" of the mutual commitments between Syria and Iran.

 

Meanwhile, Damascus as reiterated its rejection of Israel's demand that it sever ties with Iran, Hizbullah and Hamas as a key condition of any peace agreement.

 

Mashaal: Olmert too weak to make peace

During a joint press conference Mashaal held with Mottaki after their meeting, the exiled Hamas leader was careful not to criticize the negotiations.

 

He did say however that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert lacks the political might to make the moves necessary for peace with Syria.

 

"There is great skepticism concerning (Israel's) seriousness to return the Golan," Mashaal said. "It's

maneuvering and playing all the (negotiation) tracks – this is a well known game and besides, Olmert's weakness will not allow him to take this step." He was referring to the current ongoing investigation against Olmert, who has recently been suspected of receiving money unlawfully.

 

Mashaal said he was sure the renewed talks would not come at the expense of the Palestinian track.

 

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