Friday, July 28, 2006

Iran's Chief Security Official Visits Syria

Ali Larijani, the secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, flew to Syria on Wednesday for talks with senior Syrian officials as the crisis in the Middle East deepened, diplomats told Reuters.

Larijani, who is also Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, was originally scheduled to appear at Iran's parliament, the Majlis, on Wednesday but cancelled at short notice because of an unexpected trip abroad, Iranian media reported.

Larijani frequently visits the capital of Syria, one of Iran's close allies in the Middle East.

An intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Larijani had flown to Damascus to discuss the crisis as Hizbollah guerrillas entered their 15th day of fighting against Israel.

"Both (Syria and Iran) are worried about what's going on in Rome," the intelligence official said, referring to a meeting of foreign ministers in the Italian capital about the Middle East crisis. READ MORE

A European diplomat confirmed that Larijani had made a crisis visit to Syria on Wednesday and that it had to with support for Hizbollah and the meeting in Rome. He declined to give further details.

The United States and other Western governments accuse Iran and Syria of supporting the Hizbollah guerrillas in their fight against Israel.

Analysts say that the Hizbollah's fight with Israel has helped to divert attention from Iran's nuclear programme, which Western countries suspect is aimed at developing atomic weapons, a charge Tehran denies.

Germany and the five permanent U.N. Security Council members are negotiating a resolution that will demand Iran freeze its uraniunm enrichment programme, which could produce uranium fuel for nuclear power plants or atomic weapons.