Middle East
Syrian leader meets US politicians
Al-Assad quoted as praising Obama's adoption of dialogue to improve ties with Damascus.
Last Modified: 28 May 2009 18:42 GMT
Al-Assad welcomed Washington's 'more open approach' to relations under Obama [AFP]

Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, has held talks with two US Democratic legislators to discuss means of improving relations between the two countries and achieve peace in the Middle East.

The meeting, with Tim Waltz, a House member, and Edward Kaufman, a senator, on Thursday were reported by Sana, the Syrian state news agency.

Al-Assad was said to have praised President Barack Obama's approach to relations between the countries, but also asserted that there was still work to do to ease tensions.

He said he "appreciates that President Obama has adopted dialogue as the way to deal with difficult issues", referring to unease with George Bush, Obama's predecessor.

Al-Assad also spoke of "the necessity to remove obstacles that hinder relations and to promote stability in the Middle East".

US-Syrian relations have deteriorated following the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the assassination of Rafiq al-Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister, in 2005, which many blame on Syria. Damascus denies such allegations.

The US withdrew its ambassador to Syria after al-Hariri's murder.

However, Obama has encouraged good relations with Damascus, with Jeffery Feltman, Washington's foremost Middle East envoy, visiting the country in March.

Feltman's visit was the first high-level US trip in four years.

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