DAMASCUS, Jan. 19 (Xinhuanet) -- Syrian President Bashar al-Assad pledged on Thursday at a joint news conference with his visiting Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Syria's support for Iran's nuclear program and rejected pressure on Tehran."Iran has the right to build up nuclear technology for peaceful purposes," said Assad after talks with Ahmadinejad. Assad also said that he had expressed his country's support for Iran in its pursuit of peaceful nuclear technology during the meeting with Ahmadinejad.
"We back the idea of a dialogue between Iran and the international parties. We also reject the pressure being exerted on Iran" over its nuclear program, he said, adding "countries who oppose this gave no convincing reason, regardless of whether it is legitimate or not."
Assad also renewed Syria's call for a Middle East free of nuclear weapons, saying "the beginning (of establishing a nuclear-free Mideast) should be with Israel."
Israel is widely believed to be the only nuclear power in the Middle East, but it has never admitted or denied of possessing nuclear weapons.
In addition, Assad said that both Damascus and Tehran wanted stability in Lebanon but stressed "the need to support the resistance" against Israel, in a clear reference to the radical Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah.
Ahmadinejad started a two-day official visit to Syria on Thursday in a bid to strengthen political and economic relations amid mounting international pressures.
Syria and Iran, both on the U.S. blacklist of state sponsors of terrorism, are also accused by Washington of taking insufficient actions to prevent armed opponents of the U.S.-led coalition from crossing into Iraq.
In addition, the two countries back the Hezbollah, which is branded by Washington as a terrorist group. Washington also backs disarming the group under UN Security Council Resolution 1559. Both countries are now entangled in their foreign affairs. Syria is facing mounting international pressure over its alleged role in the killing of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri while Iran was in the hot water over its disputed nuclear program.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog, will hold an emergency meeting on Feb. 2 upon calls by the European nuclear negotiators to refer Iran's nuclear case to the UN Security Council which might lead to sanctions. Meanwhile, Washington also urged Damascus to stop obstructing the UN probe into Hariri's killing and respond positively to there quests by the UN investigation commission, threatening to refer Syria to the UN Security Council for further actions if Damascus does not cooperate.
Syria has denied any role in Hariri's death and dismissed the UN charge of slow cooperation as "inaccurate." Enditem