Iran's new president expressed his country's support to Syria's embattled leader Bashar Assad's regime Sunday, saying no force in the world will be able to shake their decades-old alliance.
Hassan Rohani's comments came as Syrian troops and rebels fought some of the fiercest battles in the mountains of the coastal province of Latakia, an Assad stronghold.
- Dempsey headed to Israel to discuss Iran, Syria
- US says it can be 'willing partner' with Iran
- Op-ed: What Obama can (and should) do about Iran
Syria has been Tehran's strongest ally in the Arab world since Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Iran has been one of Assad's strongest backers since Syria's crisis began. Tehran is believed to have supplied Assad's government with billions of dollars since the country's crisis began in March 2011. Iran-supported Hezbollah also has sent fighters into Syria to bolster an offensive by Assad forces.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran aims to strengthen its relations with Syria and will stand by it in facing all challenges," SANA quoted Rohani as saying in a report from Tehran. "The deep, strategic and historic relations between the people of Syria and Iran ... will not be shaken by any force in the world."
Rohani was elected in June and was endorsed by the country's supreme leader on Saturday, allowing him to begin acting as president. He was sworn in Sunday.
Rohani condemned foreign intervention in Syria, saying that the Arab country is passing through a "failed attempt" to strike at the "axis of resistance and rejection to Zionist-American plans in the region," SANA quoted him as saying.
Damascus and Tehran reject the idea that there is an uprising in Syria and say the country is being subjected to an Israeli-American conspiracy because of its support to militant groups such as Lebanon's Hezbollah.
SANA quoted Rohani as saying that Syria will come out of this war "victorious."
Al-Halqi said the Syrian people will "not forget friends who stood by their side during times of difficulties," SANA reported.
Later Sunday, Assad took part in an iftar, the meal that breaks the dawn-to-dusk fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The iftar was attended by government officials, religious leaders and members of the country's unions and political parties, SANA said. It added that Assad gave a speech.
"The president spoke about the latest developments of the Syrian crisis and heroic acts and victories of the Syrian army in defending the country," SANA said, publishing a picture of Assad giving a speech in front of dozens of people. It was Assad's second public appearance this week after he visited troops in the Damascus suburb of Daraya on Thursday to mark Army Day.
More than 100,000 people have been killed since the uprising against the Assad family's four-decade rule began in March 2011. The revolt later escalated into a civil war, which has uprooted millions of people from their homes.
Also Sunday, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the clashes in the Jabal al-Akrad region in Latakia province began around dawn when rebels attacked government forces' posts. It said both sides used tanks, artilleries and mortars in the fighting, while government warplanes took part in the battles.
Although much of Latakia has been under the firm control of Assad's forces, some mountainous regions such as Jabal al-Akrad and Jabal al-Turkomen have witnessed fighting because they are close to rebel-held areas.
The observatory said 12 rebels, including foreign fighters, were killed in the fighting, as well as 19 troops and pro-government gunmen. Dozens were wounded as well, it said.
The Local Coordination Committees, another activist group, said at least eight people were killed in the fighting in Latakia province. It added that rebels fired Russian-made Grad rockets at government positions.
- Receive Ynetnews updates
directly to your desktop