The fact that Nick Griffin has travelled to Syria on a fact-finding mission may surprise some, but this is not the first time the BNP leader has traveled to the Middle East.

Nick Griffin has revealed he is in Syria, after leaving the UK on Sunday and travelling to the war-torn country via Lebanon.

Griffin, leader of the beleaguered British National Party, whose fortunes have waned since the 2010 local elections, claims he has travelled to the Arab nation to find out about rebel groups being offered funding by William Hague, who he claims are jihadists.

BNP spokesman Simon Darby revealed that Griffin was invited as part of a delegation of European politicians along with representatives from Poland, Russia and Belgium.

President Bashar al-Assad's regime is reported to have invited the far-right MEP to take part in a fact-finding mission, Griffin tweeted earlier comparing Islamist rebels in Syria to Lee Rigby's alleged murderers.

Posting to Twitter Griffin posed the question: "Why turn stable secular state into Iraq-style hell of sectarian hate?" and compared Damascus to Belfast during the height of the conflict in Northern Ireland.

Back in the Middle East

This is not Griffin's first trip to the Middle East. The far-right figurehead tried to form unusual alliances before in the region during his time with the National Front.

Inspired by the ideas of Italian fascists, Griffin attempted to build contacts with Colonel Gaddafi's Libya in the late 80s as a leading member of the National Front's "political soldier" faction.

Griffin was pursuing an ideology called "third positionism", which saw itself as being beyond the left-right spectrum of politics, opting instead for an ultranationalism that supports the creation of racially homogenous communities.

Guided by this ideology, Griffin openly backed black separatist Louis Farrakhan in the nationalist magazine Bulldog and called for nationalists to support Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini.

He met with representatives of the Gaddafi regime in London and even travelled to Libya to try secure support for his party. The trip was unsuccessful but Gaddafi's Green Book remained a favourite in Griffin's circles.

At the time, the push for support from Islamic regimes raised eyebrows in the National Front, an organisation known for its hard-line stance on immigration and racist views of members.

National Front News wrote: "Those involved must work to nail the media lies which are used by our enemies to try and divide us and make us afraid to be seen standing side by side with Third Way nations such as Libya and Iran."

When Gaddafi's regime was overthrown Griffin was outraged, claiming it was an attempt to "remove any potential state threat to Israel".

Strange bedfellows

The BNP is not the only far-right party in Europe to try make friends in unusual places, Hungary's Jobbik party have been building links with Iran based on their mutual dislike for Israel.

The anti-Semitic alliance has seen the Hungarian town of Tiszavasvari, a Jobbik stronghold, twinned with the Iranian city of Ardabil.

Italian fascists CasaPound have long admired Irish republican groups - selling merchandise commemorating IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands. However, their advances were swiftly rejected when Irish republican groups found out.

In Lebanon, where Griffin stopped off on his way to Damascus, the far-right Phalanges party holds five seats in parliament. Launched in 1936, the party was modelled on Spanish and Italian fascist movements.