Syrian president meets Iraqi SIIC leader

Dec. 18, 2009 at 1:55 PM

DAMASCUS, Syria, Dec. 18 (UPI) -- Security and political progress in Iraq are included in the foreign policy interests of the government in Damascus, the Syrian president told Iraqi leaders.

Syrian President Bashar Assad met with Ammar al-Hakim, the leader of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council in Damascus, the official Syrian Arab News Agency reports.

Assad during his meetings with the Shiite leader relayed his support for political stability and national security in Iraq.

Syrian relations with Iraq were strained following a deadly August attack in Baghdad. Iraqi leaders lashed out at Damascus, saying supporters of the Iraqi Baath Party played a role in the attacks from their bases in Syria.

Damascus denied the link, and the Iraqi branch of al-Qaida claimed responsibility for the August bombings and a string of similar attacks.

U.S. military officials, however, said several members of the former Iraqi regime could be in Syria, including former Iraqi commander Izzat al-Douri, who took over as head of the Iraqi Baath Party following the 2006 execution of Saddam Hussein.

The SANA report noted Hakim expressed his appreciation for Syria's support for Iraq as it emerges from years of war.

Ammar al-Hakim emerged as the SIIC chief following the death of his father and former leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim in August.

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