Iran and Syria heightened tension across the Middle East and directly confronted the Bush administration yesterday by declaring they had formed a mutual self-defence pact to confront the "threats" now facing them.
The move, which took the Foreign Office by surprise, was announced after a meeting in Tehran between the Iranian vice-president, Mohammed Reza Aref, and the Syrian prime minister, Naji al-Otari.
"At this sensitive point, the two countries require a united front due to numerous challenges," said Mr Otari.
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