Sarkozy welcomes Syria's Assad

July 12, 2008 at 3:35 PM
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PARIS, July 12 (UPI) -- Syrian President Bashar Assad arrived in France Saturday and met with French President Nicolas Sarkozy on the eve of a major Mediterranean summit.

Assad reviewed a military honor guard at the Elysee Palace in Paris as he made his first visit to France since 2001, with the two leaders to be joined by new Lebanese President Michel Sleiman and Qatar's Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Thani, al-Alam Satellite TV reported.

The broadcaster said it was likely Assad and Sleiman could announce significant progress on talks to establish diplomatic ties between the new government and Damascus.

Attention quickly turned to Sunday's Paris summit, the first meeting of the new 43-member group Union for the Mediterranean, which is aimed at boosting cooperation between EU and Mediterranean rim states. Sarkozy met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak Saturday to plan the event.

Al-Alam reported speculation of a meeting between Assad and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has been quashed, although they will be at the same table for the launch of the new group.

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