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IRAN, SYRIA ENTER MUTUAL DEFENSE PACT

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IRAN, SYRIA ENTER MUTUAL DEFENSE PACT

Iran and Syria directly confronted the Bush administration Wednesday by declaring they had formed a mutual self-defense pact to confront the "threats" now facing them. The move was announced after a meeting in Tehran between Iranian Vice President Mohammed Reza Aref and Syrian Prime Minister Naji al-Otari, according to Britain's Guardian.

The announcement comes amid a week of high tension in the region following the assassination in Beruit on Monday of Lebanon's former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The White House on Wednesday intensified its search for punitive sanctions against Syria, accusing Damascus of complicity in the killing of the independent-minded former premier who was expected to stand for re-election on an anti-Syrian platform.

The US hopes that the international outrage over Hariri's death will generate momentum against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, even as President Bush himself intensifies the rhetoric against Iran's fledging nuclear program.

Addressing the question of a potential nuclear Iran at a news conference on Thursday, Bush shied away from ruling out an Israeli offensive strike.

 "If I was the leader of Israel and I listened to some of the statements by the Iranian ayatollahs about... the security of my country, I'd be concerned about Iran having a nuclear weapon as well... And, in that Israel is our ally, in that we've made a very strong commitment to support Israel, we will support Israel if their security is threatened."

According to Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, speaking this week during a visit to London, Iran is six months away from having the knowledge to build a nuclear bomb.  "We believe that in six months from today they will end all the tests and experiments they are doing to have that knowledge," Shalom said.

 

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