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Middle east

Hariri repeats calls for closer ties on Syria trip

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-07-18

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri called for closer ties with Syria on Sunday as both sides moved to reinforce relations once strained by accusations that Syria was involved in planning the 2005 assassination of Hariri's father, a former premier.

AFP - Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri called for closer ties with Syria on Sunday, state media said, as he made his third visit since taking office to a country he once accused of being behind his father's assassination.
   
Hariri and his counterpart Mohammad Naji Otri examined "fraternal relations and the common will of the two countries to develop them," the official Syrian Arab News Agency reported.
   
Hariri and Otri also affirmed their countries' "commitment to reinforce relations," SANA said.
   
Several economic agreements were due to be signed during the visit, in which Hariri was also to meet President Bashar al-Assad.
   
Hariri, who had accused Syria of being behind the 2005 assassination of his father, ex-premier Rafiq Hariri, is on his third visit to Damascus.
   
On the sidelines of the meeting, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mouallem told reporters that the UN's Special Tribunal for Lebanon which is investigating the assassination "is a Lebanese affair."
   
"If irrefutable evidence demonstrates that a Syrian citizen was implicated, that person will then be judged in Syria for high treason," Mouallem said.
   
A UN commission of inquiry had said there was converging evidence that Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services were involved in Hariri's killing, but Damascus has consistently denied any involvement.
   
The killing prompted the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon after a 29-year presence.
   
During Hariri's visit last December, the first since his father's assassination, he had expressed his desire for "privileged, sincere and honest relations... in the interest of both countries and both peoples."
   
"We want to build relations with Syria on the positive things," such as the opening of embassies and exchange of ambassadors, Hariri said during that visit.
   
Hariri and his political allies, backed by the West and Saudi Arabia, won a majority of seats in parliament in June 2009, edging out an alliance led by the Syrian-backed Shiite Hezbollah.
   
The two blocs now share power in a government of national unity.
 

Date created : 2010-07-18

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