Tehran: Syrian President Bashar Al Assad opened talks with Iranian officials Wednesday in a visit expected to include an appeal to free a French academic accused of plotting to overthrow the Islamic regime.
Al Assad is a close Iranian ally and also is using the trip to personally congratulate Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, on his re-election, which touched off massive unrest after opponents claimed the results were rigged.
But much of the international attention will focus on whether Al Assad lobbies for the release of Clotilde Reiss, a French academic on trial with more than 100 politicians, journalists and activists accused of trying to engineer a "velvet revolution" to overthrow the Islamic leadership.
Reiss was released last week on bail, but judicial authorities have barred her from leaving the country.
France last week thanked Syria for helping win the release from jail of a French-Iranian employee of the French embassy in Tehran, who is also in the same mass trial.