Syria encouraged by U.S. talks

Sept. 30, 2008 at 9:09 AM
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NEW YORK, Sept. 30 (UPI) -- Syria, branded by the United States as a sponsor of terrorism, is encouraged by recent meetings with U.S. officials, the country's foreign minister says.

Foreign Minister Walid Moallem met unofficially with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Friday at the United Nations General Assembly, and held a more formal dialogue Monday with Assistant Secretary of State David Welch in New York, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

"I consider this a good progress in the American position," Moallem told the Journal. "We agreed to continue this dialogue."

Syria would would seek to improve counter-terrorism cooperation with the West in the wake of Saturday's bombing of a Syrian military installation that killed 17 people, Moallem said.

U.S. President George Bush froze diplomatic relations with Syria after the 2005 assassination of Lebanon's former prime minister, Rafik Hariri, which Washington blames on Syrian security forces. U.S. economic sanctions are also place in because of Syria's support of the Islamic militant groups Hezbollah and Hamas.

During the recent meetings, the U.S. officials encouraged Syria's indirect peace talks with Israel but reiterated it needed to do more to stem the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq, and of weapons into Lebanon, the Journal reported.

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