Khatami Discusses Regional, Bilateral Issues in Syria, Yemen

May 17, 2003
SAN'A -- President Mohammad Khatami negotiated with his Yemeni counterpart Ali Abdullah Saleh here late Thursday by stressing the need for solidarity among Islamic states to guarantee peace in the region.

"The regional countries must secure comprehensive development and security based on mutual respect by complementing each other's possibilities," Khatami said.

He hoped that the withdrawal of foreign forces from the Persian Gulf region would enable the Iraqi nation to determine their own fate through participation of all ethnic and religious groups, IRNA reported.

Khatami's visit is the first by an Iranian president after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. He is on a regional tour, which has already taken him to Lebanon as well as a short-stay trip to Syria.

He also underlined the longstanding relations between Iran and Yemen, saying, "The two countries must use all their existing capacities to promote economic ties".

"The Iranian and Yemeni people, as two nations with a longstanding record, have decided to use their possibilities for achieving a rapid development through relying on their past and looking into the future," Khatami said.

He hailed Yemen's "positive" political developments and stressed the need for removing obstacles on the way of implementing agreements between the two countries.

Saleh said he was pleased with the visit of the Iranian delegation and that San'a was interested in bolstering relations with Tehran in all fields.

The two countries hold close views on bilateral, regional, and global issues, he said, adding, "Yemen extends its hand of cooperation with Iran in all areas".

Khatami upon arrival in San'a Thursday said he would discuss various issues such as restoration of peace and tranquility in the region as well as the current threats in the region with Yemeni leaders.

He met with the Yemeni Vice-President Abd ar-Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, Prime Minister Abd al-Qadir Bajammal, and Speaker of the House of Representatives Abdullah bin Hussain al-Ahmar.

President Khatami is being accompanied by several officials including, Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, Interior Minister Abdolvahed Mousavi Lari and Minister of Agriculture Jihad Mahmoud Hojjati.

The Iranian and Yemeni officials also signed a number of memorandums of understanding (MOUs) on security, customs, and economic issues.

Before departing for San'a Khatami and his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad also discussed the latest developments in the region and in the world as well as ways of improving the all-out bilateral ties on Wednesday.

According to IRNA, Khatami said it was indispensable for Iran and Syria to strengthen the bilateral cooperation under the currently critical condition to preserve both sides' interests and those of the regional countries.

He said that Iran had enjoyed very good relations with Syria under the leadership of the late Hafez al-Assad and that the good level of ties should remain.

As for Iraq, Khatami touched on the threats posed by the foreign forces in Iraq and stressed the withdrawal of these forces from the Middle Eastern state.

In the meeting that was attended also by a number of the Iranian and Syrian ministers and ranking officials, Bashar al-Assad analyzed the regional and global situation.

Assad stressed the vigilance of the Islamic states and called for further deliberations among the countries to settle the issues and to preserve the regional states' interests.

He said the restoration of the inalienable rights of the Palestinians to them would contribute to the regional peace and stability.

The two sides called for measures to remove any possible barriers to the expansion of the political and economic relations between the two countries in various areas.

The sides inked a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on free trade which called for formation of a joint committee to assess ways of lifting the customs procedures in the two countries' trade transactions and moving toward a full free trade between the two states.

Khatami expressed pleasure with his Syria visit and stressed the continued contacts between Tehran and Damascus on the major international and regional events.

He said it was of critical importance for both Iran and Syria to continue cooperation under the currently sensitive circumstances, adding that "We have to get more vigilant vis-a-vis the current threats.

Khatami wound up a three-day visit to Lebanon, the first by an Iranian president since his country's 1979 Islamic Revolution, with a joint statement condemning "threats" against Beirut, Damascus and Tehran.

The statement said the two parties condemn threats made against Iran, Lebanon and Syria, and the exploitation by Israel of regional and international developments to occupy Arab territories, notably the Golan Heights.

Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria during the 1967 Middle East War.

Khatami arrived in the Syrian capital Damascus on the second leg of his Middle Eastern tour on Wednesday.

This is the third visit to Syria by President Khatami since he came to office. He traveled to Syria from Beirut where he headed a senior Iranian delegation that arrived in Beirut at the official invitation of President Lahoud.

During his Beirut visit, the president and his accompanying delegation held separate talks with high-ranking official Lebanese authorities and groups of political and religious figures from various Lebanese tribes.