April 28, 2015 / 9:25 AM / 3 years ago

Syria's defense minister in Iran to discuss fighting terror: agency

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syria’s defense minister started an official visit to its major ally Iran on Tuesday at the head of a military delegation to discuss cooperation “in the face of terrorism,” Syria’s state news agency SANA said.

Syrian General Fahad Jassim al-Freij is seen in this handout released by Syria's national news agency SANA on July 18, 2012. REUTERS/Sana/Handout/Files

Minister Fahad Jassim al-Freij, who is also deputy commander of the Syrian armed forces, met his Iranian counterpart Hossein Dehghan and other officials, SANA said, publishing a picture of the meeting.

The two-day visit comes as the Syrian military is facing increased pressure from insurgent groups on the ground there. The army has been losing ground to insurgents who are edging closer to the coastal province of Latakia, an important government-held stronghold.

The visit was aimed at “strengthening coordination and cooperation between the two armies ... especially in the face of terrorism and common challenges in the region,” SANA said.

On Monday an alliance of Islamist rebels including al Qaeda’s Nusra Front wing seized an army base in the northwestern province of Idlib, days after capturing a key town there.

Insurgents are attempting to push the Syrian military out of the province completely after seizing the provincial capital last month.

Reporting by Sylvia Westall; Editing by Tom Heneghan

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