Syrian president visits Iran in rare trip abroad

Syrian state-run media say President Bashar Assad has visited Iran and met with officials there on a rare trip abroad.

SANA said Assad met with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani on the trip — the first time he has traveled anywhere other than Russia since the Syrian civil war erupted nearly eight years ago.

Tehran has given the Syrian government billions of dollars in aid since the conflict began and sent Iran-backed fighters to battle alongside his forces.

Syrian state TV says Assad "thanked the Islamic Republic's leadership and people for what they have given to Syria during the war."

The visit comes a day before a trip by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Russia for talks expected to focus on Iran's role in Syria.