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Middle East

Assad welcomes better relations with US

Latest update : 2009-02-18

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said he welcomes US President Barack Obama's moves towards dialogue and said he would like to see full diplomatic ties resumed, including having a US ambassador based in Damascus once more.

AFP - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad welcomed US President Barack Obama's moves towards dialogue and said he would like to see full diplomatic ties resumed, in an interview published Wednesday.
  
"We have the impression that this administration will be different and we have seen the signals. But we have to wait for the reality and the results," he told the Guardian newspaper.
  
The president said a visit to Damascus by a high-ranking US congressional delegation this week was "important" and a "good gesture," but said he hoped Washington would send an ambassador to cement these ties.
  
"An ambassador is important," he said.
  
Assad said he hoped Washington would act as the "main arbiter" in the Middle East peace process, saying: "There is no substitute for the United States."
  
But he warned that Syria was a key part of this: "We are a player in the region. If you want to talk about peace, you cannot advance without us."
  
Referring to Obama's call for countries to "unclench their fists," he said:  "We never clenched our fist. We still talked about peace even during the Israeli aggression in Gaza."
  
Assad returned to the international fold last year with a visit to Paris, and since then, relations with the international community have thawed, most notably with the United States since Obama's inauguration in January.
  
At the same time, Washington has stressed its support for the probe into the assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri, which has been widely blamed on the Syrian regime despite its denial of any involvement.
  
The United States also accuses Damascus of supporting "terrorist" groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas, of destabilising Lebanon and of allowing armed fighters to transit its territory to fight US-led forces in Iraq.
 

Date created : 2009-02-18

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