Syria and Iran vow to step up fight against terrorists

Syria and Iran vow to step up fight against terrorists
President Bashar al-Assad of Syria (L) and President Hassan Rouhani of Iran.

DAMASCUS - Syria and Iran have agreed to "intensify efforts to fight terrorism," Syria's defence minister said in Tehran, after a series of government defeats at the hands of rebel forces.

Defence Minister General Fahd al-Freij, quoted by state news agency SANA, said key allies Damascus and Tehran were on the same page on how to tackle the fight against anti-government rebels.

"We agreed on the next measures to be taken together to confront terrorism," SANA quoted Freij as saying while on a two-day trip to Iran this week.

"It is important to intensify efforts to fight terrorism, particularly after the escalation of recent months," he added.

In the last month, Syrian government forces have suffered a series of setbacks, particularly in northwestern Idlib province.

A coalition of rebels including Al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate Al-Nusra Front now controls much of the province after seizing its capital, the key town of Jisr al-Shughur and a military base in the last few weeks.

"Syria's enemies will spare no effort to continue their plot," Freij said, in a reference to the rebels and their regional and international backers.

Syria's regime and allies refer to all those seeking to oust President Bashar al-Assad as "terrorists" and accuse opposition supporters like Turkey, Qatar and the United States of funding extremism.

Iran's official IRNA news agency meanwhile quoted Defence Minister General Hossein Dehgan as saying "both sides agreed on the need for continuing bilateral co-operation to fight terrorism, extremism and violence and to restore regional stability."

"We will resist the (extremist) takfiri-Zionist groups with all our strength," he added, describing jihadist groups as being in league with Israel.

Iran has played a key role in bolstering Assad's regime against an uprising that began with anti-government protests in March 2011 before spiralling into a war after a crackdown by authorities.

It has provided financial aid and military support, largely in the form of military advisors.

Iranian-backed Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite movement, has also dispatched fighters to Syria to boost Assad's forces.

But Assad, in an interview with French television this month, denied that Iranian troops were fighting on the ground.

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