Chávez rolls into Damascus to charm another US foe
Albert Aji in Damascus
Thursday August 31, 2006
The Guardian,00.html

The president of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, said yesterday he and Syria would "build a new world" free from US domination."We have decided to be free. We want to cooperate to build a new world where states' and people's self-determination are respected," Mr Chávez said after a two-and-a-half-hour meeting with the Syrian president, Bashar Assad, at his presidential palace in Damascus.

"Imperialism's concern is to control the world, but we will not let them despite the pressure and aggression," the Venezuelan leader said.

Speaking at Damascus airport on his arrival late on Tuesday, Mr Chávez said both countries agreed to stand up to the United States. "We have the same political vision and we will resist together the American imperialist aggression," he said.

Pictures of Mr Chávez and Mr Assad lined the streets of downtown Damascus, and thousands of Syrians waved banners and Venezuelan flags as Mr Chávez drove to his meeting with Mr Assad.

With Mr Chávez and Mr Assad looking on, delegates from the two countries signed 13 political and economic agreements.

Mr Assad told reporters he saw Mr Chávez's visit as historic, and that the Venezuelan leader had made "great stands" in support of Arab causes.

"We appreciate your sincere feelings toward the peoples who have their rights and are under occupation, as well as your sincere humanitarian and moral sentiments," Mr Assad was quoted as saying.

Mr Chávez said he and Syria shared a "decisive and firm" stance against "imperialism" and American attempts for "domination".

Mr Chávez has built close ties with Iran, Syria and other Middle East countries while his relations with the US and Israel have become tense. Earlier this month he compared Israel's attacks on Hizbullah militants in Lebanon to the Holocaust and recalled Venezuela's ambassador. Israel responded by recalling its ambassador to Venezuela.

Syrian state-run newspapers yesterday hailed Mr Chávez's visit.

An editorial in the Tishrin government paper called him a "brave man", and said his visit showed that Venezuelans and Syrians were "standing in one trench because their enemy is the same.

"Damascus is receiving today a man of steadfastness ... who stands in the face of huge challenges and says 'no' to US policies and plans," it said.