Iran's new president Hassan Rouhani vows to support Syrian regime as president Assad vows to crush rebels with 'iron fist'

Rouhani made comments during a meeting with Syrian prime minister Wael al-Halqi

Iran's new president has backed the regime of Syria's embattled leader Bashar Assad, saying no force in the world would be able to shake their decades-old alliance.

Hassan Rouhani's comments came as Syrian troops and rebels fought some of the fiercest battles in the mountains of the coastal province of Latakia, an Assad stronghold.

Mr Rouhani made the comments during a meeting in the Iranian capital Tehran with Syrian prime minister Wael al-Halqi, Syria's state news agency SANA said.

Syria has been Tehran's strongest ally in the Arab world since Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution and Iran has been one of Assad's staunchest backers since Syria's crisis began.

Tehran is believed to have supplied Assad's government with billions since the country's crisis began in March 2011. Iran-supported Hezbollah also has sent fighters into Syria to bolster an offensive by Assad forces.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran aims to strengthen its relations with Syria and will stand by it in facing all challenges,” SANA quoted Mr Rouhani as saying in a report from Tehran. “The deep, strategic and historic relations between the people of Syria and Iran ... will not be shaken by any force in the world.”

Mr Rouhani was elected in June and was endorsed by the country's supreme leader on Saturday, allowing him to begin acting as president. He was sworn in yesterday.

Assad vowed last night to crush the rebels trying to overthrow him, saying Syria was between two choices, “a state of the law or a state run by thieves and bandits”.

He spoke while taking part in an iftar, the meal that breaks the dawn-to-dusk fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The iftar was attended by government officials, religious leaders and members of the country's unions and political parties, SANA said.

It was Assad's second public appearance this week after he visited troops in the Damascus suburb of Daraya on Thursday to mark Army Day.

Assad said “terrorism cannot be dealt with politically but should be struck with an iron fist”.

His troops have achieved victories in the past two months mostly near the capital Damascus and in the strategic central province of Homs that links the capital Damascus with Assad's stongholds on the coast.

Assad said his army, which was built to fight a conventional war against its main enemy Israel, has been able to adapt to the guerrilla warfare it is facing.

The Syrian leader criticised Persian Gulf states that he said were demanding democracy in Syria despite human rights abuses in their own countries.

“Their political systems belong to the middle ages where there are no parliaments or elections,” Assad said.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been among the strongest backers of the Syrian opposition.

Mr Rouhani condemned foreign intervention in Syria, saying that the Arab country was passing through a “failed attempt” to strike at the “axis of resistance and rejection to Zionist-American plans in the region”, SANA quoted him as saying.

Damascus and Tehran reject the idea that there is an uprising in Syria and say the country is being subjected to an Israeli-American conspiracy because of its support to militant groups such as Lebanon's Hezbollah.

Mr Rouhani said Syria would come out of this war “victorious”.

Mr Al-Halqi said the Syrian people would “not forget friends who stood by their side during times of difficulties”, SANA reported.

More than 100,000 people have been killed since the uprising against the Assad family's four-decade rule began in March 2011. The revolt later escalated into a civil war, which has uprooted millions of people from their homes.

Assad's and Mr Rouhani's statements came as Syrian troops and rebels fought some of the fiercest battles in the mountains of the coastal province of Latakia, an Assad stronghold.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the clashes in the Jabal al-Akrad region in Latakia province began around dawn yesterday when rebels attacked government forces' posts. It said both sides used tanks, artilleries and mortars in the fighting, while government warplanes took part in the battles.

Although much of Latakia has been under the firm control of Assad's forces, some mountainous regions such as Jabal al-Akrad and Jabal al-Turkomen have witnessed fighting because they are close to rebel-held areas.

The observatory said 12 rebels, including foreign fighters, were killed, as well as 19 troops and pro-government gunmen. Dozens were wounded.

The Local Co-ordination Committees, another activist group, said at least eight people were killed in the fighting in Latakia province. It added that rebels fired Russian-made Grad rockets at government positions.

AP

Video: Syrian rebels blow up tank

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Manchester

£18000 - £23000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultan...

Recruitment Genius: Plumber

£22000 - £25900 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Company is expanding and th...

Recruitment Genius: Corporate Account Manager

£27000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Corporate Account Manager is ...

Recruitment Genius: Chef de Partie

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This award winning conference venues provider...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders