Iran Press Service



Iranian President Hojjatoleslam Mohammad Khatami returned Tuesday to Tehran after attending the official funerals of the Syrian dictator who died last Saturday and in meeting with his son Bashar, assured him of Iran's full support.

In a short speech made in Tehran before his departure for Damascus, Mr. Khatami paid a strong tribute to the memory the Syrian President, whom he described as "the symbol of courage and honour, a man of principle and resistance against aggression of the Zionist regime".

Mr. Khatami said Hafez el Asad played an important role in the past decades for the region and while opposing the enemies, he never sacrificed the interests of Arab, the Umma and Syria.

He said the death of the Syrian strongman was a "heavy loss" for both the Islamic and Arab worlds.

"Through his presence in the scene, Asad did not withdraw, even an inch, from principles and aspirations which guaranteed interests of the Arab people" the official Iranian news agency IRNA quoted Mr. Khatami as saying.

He described Iran Syria relations as a good example of co-operations between two Muslim nations and reminded that despite some losses, the late Syrian President always stayed behind the Islamic Republic, the Islamic revolution and the Muslim people of Iran.

In fact, Asad, a staunch enemy of his Iraqi counterpart Saddam Hussein surprised everyone when, after Iraq invaded Iran in 1980,he took the side of non-Arab Persia.

To punish him, Saddam Hussein cut the pipeline that used to carry Iraqi oil to the Mediterranean Sea via Syrian ports, providing economically poor Syria with millions of dollars in royalties.

To compensate this loss of revenues, Iran offered Asad 5 million tons of crude oil at cheap price plus another million gratis.

During his short meeting with Dr. Bashar, Mr. Khatami also hoped that the new Syrian leader would confidently continue the path of his late father.

Mr. Khatami was accompanied by General Yahya Rahim Safavi, the Commander-in-Chief of the Revolutionary Guards as well as the two last Iranian ambassadors to Syria, Hojjatoleslam Ali Akbar Mohtashami, who during his stay in the Syrian Capital helped forging the Lebanese Hezbollah and Hojjatoleslam Hasan Akhtari.

Along President Jacques Chirac of France and Vladimir Putin of Russia, Mr. Khatami was the only non-Arab Head of State who attended the mourning ceremonies. ENDS ASAD BURIAL 13600

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