Putin, Khamenei hold talks in Tehran, with Syria front and center

Russian President Vladimir Putin met Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Monday in Tehran, with Syria dominating the agenda as their countries tighten military cooperation in support of embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad.  
The two leaders also discussed possibilities for joint efforts in other fields following Iran's nuclear deal with Western powers, reports said. 
In comments released to the media, the two leaders criticized Western and other countries for pushing for Assad's removal. “No one can or should force any form of government upon the Syrian people from the outside, or decide who should rule them,” Putin said during the talks. “This should be decided only by the Syrian people.”
Khamenei claimed Russia is playing an important role by countering US influence in the region, adding that Tehran will only hold bilateral talks with Washington regarding the nuclear issue, according to the Iranian media. 
Putin is making his first visit to Iran since 2007 to attend a meeting of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum. The Russian president is also scheduled to meet his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani.
Tehran is one of Moscow's main allies in the Syrian conflict, with forces from the two sides already engaged in joint operations as seen in DEBKAfile's special report

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