Syria hails improved ties with US

Syrian state radio has hailed what it describes as a marked improvement in ties with the US after a series of top-level encounters this month.

    Powell said Syria's redeployment in Lebanon was "positive"

    The upbeat comments on Thursday followed a meeting the day before in New York between US Secretary of State Colin Powell and his Syrian counterpart Faruq al-Shara, which the radio said took place in a "positive atmosphere". 

    That meeting, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, was the first between the two men since May 2003 and followed talks in Syria earlier this month between US Middle East envoy William Burns and Syrian President Bashar al-Asad. 

    The opening of the dialogue has "led to a marked improvement in Syrian-American relations", the official Syrian radio said in its daily commentary. 

    US allegations

    Relations reached a low point in May when Washington imposed sanctions on Syria, claiming it was supporting terrorism and undermining US efforts to stabilise and rebuild Iraq.

    Syria has redeployed its troops
    from bases south of Beirut

    Syria refuted the claims and said Israel was trying to launch a new war in the Middle East.


    Other allegations charged that Syria was sponsoring Iraqi armed fighters and was opening its borders for "foreign fighters" to cross into Iraq.

    Earlier accusations also stated that Syria had helped Iraq smuggle its weapons of mass destruction into its territory, but these were downplayed by intelligence analysts.

    Earlier this month, the US  sponsored a UN Security Council resolution calling on Syria - without explicitly naming Damascus - to withdraw all foreign forces in Lebanon.

    Syria started redeploying some of its troops from the outskirts of Beirut to the Bekka Valley this week.

    New attitude

    Powell said after his meeting with al-Shara on Wednesday that he saw a new attitude emerging from Syria, but was waiting for action as well as words, regarding neighbouring Iraq. 

    "I hope that the Syrians now understand the need for all of us to do as much we can in a tripartite manner - Syria, the Iraqi interim government and the coalition - to stop illicit, improper traffic across that border," he said. 

    "It's a tough military mission and a tough political mission,
    but I sense a new attitude from the Syrians, but of course, it all depends on actions, not just attitudes," Powell said. 

    He said his conversation with al-Shara was "a good, open, candid" and "rather positive discussion" that focused on a range of US concerns about Syrian policy on Iraq, Lebanon and its support for alleged "terrorist groups". 

    Powell described as "positive" Syria's recent redeployment of
    troops from bases south of Beirut but said the move did not go far enough in meeting UN Security Council demands for foreign interference in Lebanon to end.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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