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Khamenei declares Assad 'hero of the Arab world' during Syrian dictator's surprise Iran visit

Assad and Khamenei embracing in Tehran on Monday [Fars]

Date of publication: 25 February, 2019

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Syrian regime leader Bashar al-Assad has arrived in Tehran on an unannounced visit, and has met with the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani.

Syrian regime leader Bashar al-Assad arrived in Tehran on an unannounced visit on Monday, meeting Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Iran has been a key backer of Bashar al-Assad and sent thousands of troops to fight alongside regime forces against rebels since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011.

The semi-official Fars News agency tweeted pictures of the meeting showing Assad and Khamenei embracing. 

At the meeting on Monday, Khamenei prayed for the Syrian president's victory and "the defeat of the United States and its regional mercenaries", and praised the "resistance" of the Syrian president, said Fars agency.

Khamenei said the "victory" of the Syrian regime has angered the United States, prompting it to seek new "plots" such as the creation of a "buffer zone in Syria", according to the report. This is likely a reference to a Turkish-led effort to create a safe zone in northern Syria.

The supreme leader suggested that the Syrian rebellion was not part of the Arab Spring, which he claimed was "an anti-American uprising".

Addressing Assad, he said: "You are the hero of the Arab world, and the resistance in the region (an alliance of anti-US parties, movements and countries) became more powerful and credible thanks to you." 

Assad returned the praise from the Iranian leader abd thanked him for supporting his regime.

"The Islamic Republic was faithful to us and it is necessary to celebrate the success with all Iranians". 

It is not clear how long Assad intends to remain in Iran.

His visit comes amid reports the Syrian regime is rewarding Iran with lucrative reconstruction contracts, as a way of repaying its massive debts to the Islamic Republic.

Tehran has supported Damascus economically during the conflict through oil deliveries and several lines of credit, as well as sending thousands of militia fighters and Iranian commanders to save regime forces from collapse.

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