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Syrian President Bashar Assad said Thursday that support for the resistance was a ‘moral and legal’ duty and expressed ‘surprise’ at U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s call for Syria to distance itself from Iran.

“We thank them (the Americans) for their advice,” Assad said during a joint news conference with his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Damascus.

“I am surprised by their call to keep a distance between the countries … when they raise the issue of stability and peace in the Middle East,” Assad said. The political situation in the region is in favor of the “resistance groups” in the Middle East, he said, adding, “We hope the day will come when we can celebrate our religious victories and [the opposing forces’] great loss. This day will come.”

Ahmadinejad, in turn, said that ties between his country and Syria were “as solid as ever.”

Assad also defended Iran’s uranium enrichment program, saying that the Islamic Republic has the right to pursue its nuclear drive despite the threat of new sanctions.

“To forbid an independent state the right to enrichment amounts [is a new form of] colonialism in the region,” he said.

“Nothing can damage these relations. We have common interests and goals as well as common enemies,” Ahmadinejad said, adding that Syria, Iran, Lebanon and Iraq will confront Israeli threats.

Ahmadinejad reiterated that Israel was “on the path to disappearing.” “If Israel repeats its past mistakes, death of the Zionist entity is inevitable. A Middle East without Zionists is the ‘Divine Promise’.”

The region’s people should be ready for any Israeli attack, the Syrian president told reporters. The U.S. should pack up and leave the Middle East and stay out of regional affairs, Iran’s president added.

The Iranian president, in his turn, said Arab countries will usher in a new Middle East “without Zionists and without colonialists.”

The leaders signed an agreement allowing Syrian and Iranian nationals to visit each other’s countries without issuing a visa. (Naharnet & Now Lebanon)

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