Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad slammed Zionism as "occupation" and "aggression" Tuesday as he delivered his latest diatribe against the Jewish state on a visit to key Middle East ally Syria.
"The Zionist occupiers are destructive microbes, because Zionism itself is occupation, aggression, the use of assassination and annihilation," he told a joint news conference with President Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian capital.
"Zionism was created to threaten us. To support the Palestinian resistance is a humanitarian and popular obligation," Ahmadinejad said in remarks in Farsi that were translated into Arabic.
The Iranian president's comments came barely two weeks after he sparked a European walkout from a U.N. anti-racism conference in Geneva by equating Zionism with racism.
Ahmadinejad asked why it was the Islamist Hamas movement which controls Gaza that is blacklisted by the European Union and the United States, and not Israel after its devastating offensive against the territory at the turn of the year.
"They've attacked Gaza, killing people in their own land and massacring women and children... and yet it's the Palestinians they accuse of terrorism," he complained.
Ahmadinejad, whose visit to Damascus came as Defense Secretary Robert Gates toured U.S. allies in the region to reassure them about overtures to the Tehran regime by President Barack Obama, hit out at the continuing U.S. military presence on Iran's borders.
"They weren't invited in. They're unwelcome visitors who should leave Afghanistan and the borders of Pakistan," the Iranian president said.
"We don't want honey from bees that sting us. Efforts must be made to rid the region of the presence of foreigners... and to reform the unjust global political and economic system."
Ahmadinejad said Iran and Syria were standing together to "resist foreign intervention and the major powers trying to impose their hegemony over the region."
The United States "has put pressure on Syria and Iran, but it needs us and wants to develop relations," he said.
"Circumstances are changing rapidly in our favor. We are on the road to victory."
Syria's President Assad in turn defended his country’s long-standing alliance with Iran on Tuesday and said a "strategic" relationship between the two countries contributed to Middle East stability.
Syria has re-enforced its alliance with Iran in recent years after they came under pressure from the United States for suspected nuclear programs and providing backing for armed groups in the Middle East.
"We have strategic ties ... which don't constitute an axis as some suggest, but serve the stability and strength of this region," Assad said.
"Our duty is to strengthen these kinds of ties."
The two countries, which are under different levels of U.S. sanctions, support the Lebanese movement Hezbollah and the Palestinian movement Hamas, whose exiled leaders live in Syria.
Hezbollah, the lynchpin of the relationship between Tehran and Damascus, is also the main opposition party contesting Lebanon's parliamentary elections next month. The two countries want to see the Shi'ite group fare well in the poll.
The sustainability of their alliance, however, is under some doubt as Syria pushes for a resumption of peace negotiations with Israel and the United States talks to Damascus after boycotting Syria for several years.
Ahmadinejad was also due to meet exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal during his Damascus visit.