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Hariri meets Syrian president

BEIRUT/DAMASCUS (DPA) - Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri held talks on Tuesday in Damascus with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, as relations between the two countries continued to improve.

This is Hariri's second visit to Syria after a previous one in December 2009 ended nearly five years of animosity.

Relations between Saad Hariri and Syria have been tense since 2005, when he accused Damascus of plotting the murder of his father Rafik Hariri. Damascus has consistently denied involvement.

A Syrian radio station quoted Syrian presidential adviser Bussaina Shaaban as hailing the improved ties between Damascus and Beirut.

“Since his (Hariri's) last visit to Damascus, relations (between the two countries) have improved ...” Shaaban was quoted as saying.

“President Assad welcomes this visit, which is designed to coordinate policies ahead of (Hariri's) trip to Washington,” she said.

“We look favorably on every visit by an Arab to Washington that explains the Arab stance,” she added.

The Lebanese premier is scheduled to visit Washington on May 24, to meet with President Barak Obama and other U.S. officials to discuss the regional situation in the Middle East.

The meeting between the Syrian and Lebanese leaders was followed by a working lunch hosted by Assad in Hariri's honor.

On Monday, Hariri began a regional tour with a visit to Saudi Arabia in an effort to garner support to spare Lebanon ongoing Israeli threats.

The Lebanese premier held separate talks with Saudi King Abdullah and Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz.

After Damascus, Hariri is expected to head to Turkey for talks with Turkish leaders.

Photo: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, right, meets with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, left, in Damascus, Syria, May 18, 2010. (SANA photo)

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