Assad in Tehran for Meeting With Ahmadinejad

Syria's president to receive Iran's highest national medal for his support of Hamas and Hezbollah; talks expected to focus on Iraq, Lebanon and Israeli-Palestinian talks.

Syrian President Bashar Assad arrived Saturday in Iran for talks with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that are expected to focus on the effect of international sanctions on Tehran and Syria's stance on the latest peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the official Iranian news agency IRNA reported.

Bashar Assad and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Reuters Oct. 2. 2010

Ahmadinejad invited his Syrian counterpart to visit Iran during his recent trip to New York for the United Nations General Assembly meeting last month.

The two leaders were also expected to discuss the regional conflict in Iraq as well as the political developments in Lebanon revolving around the conlicts relating to the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Syria and Iran wield considerable influence in Iraq among different groups - Syria with Sunnis and Iraq among Shiites. Iraq has been locked in political stalemate since March elections, but Shiite groups now appear to have the edge.

IRNA news agency also reported that Assad will be awarded the country's highest national medal for his support of Palestinian militants Hamas and the Lebanese militia Hezbollah.

Meanwhile, Syrian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Faisal Mekdad said that his country was ready to make peace with Israel, and that it was in fact Israel that was holding back the agreement, Israel Radio reported.

According to the report, Mekdad added that a comprehensive peace agreement in the region would bring an end to the disagreement between Syria and the United Stated regarding the Hezbollah in Lebanon.