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Lebanon's Jumblatt arrives in Damascus

March 31, 2010 at 10:28 AM

DAMASCUS, Syria, March 31 (UPI) -- Lebanese leader Walid Jumblatt arrived Wednesday in Damascus in an effort to mend ties with Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Jumblatt, the leader of the Progressive Socialist Party in Lebanon, hailed bilateral ties between the two Arab neighbors, saying he appreciated the president's efforts to consolidate cooperation between the countries, the official Syrian Arab News Agency reports.

Jumblatt earlier this month was forced to apologize to Damascus for derogatory remarks he made against the Syrian president. Druze leader Jumblatt broke off ties with Syria following the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese President Rafik Hariri.

Syria and Hezbollah are believed to have played a role in the slaying of Hariri.

Jumblatt was a powerful figure during the 1975-90 Lebanese civil war. His father, Kamal, was assassinated in 1977 following a public row with Damascus.

Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah intervened in the fracas earlier this month, prompting Jumblatt to say the period of Lebanese acrimony with Syria was "over."

The report from Syria said both sides discussed the importance of resistance to Israel, a reference to Hezbollah.

Lebanese relations with Syria are strained, though both countries exchanged ambassadors in 2009. Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri is expected to visit Damascus this year.

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