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Maliki meets Assad in Damascus
By staff and agencies

DAMASCUS/BAGHDAD/CAIRO – Iraq's prime minister is looking to strengthen relations with neighboring Syria -- while burnishing his own credentials -- in a visit on Wednesday aimed at easing tension between the longtime rivals.

The anticipated meeting in Damascus comes as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki tries to hang onto his job amid a seven-month political impasse in Baghdad that has left Iraq's government adrift.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Prime Minister Maliki discussed the ways to expand cooperation between the two countries and discovering opportunities in the political and economic fields, Syria’s official news agency SANA reported on Wednesday.

They discussed how to remove the obstacles in order to enhance bilateral cooperation.

Assad and Maliki called to enhance the close relations between the Syrian and Iraqi people.

The two leaders focused on the strategic dimension of the relations between the two countries in the region, underlining the importance of developing economic cooperation between the regional countries and forming a regional economic bloc.

Assad and Maliki also discussed the latest developments in Iraq and the efforts being made to solve the crisis of forming a government in the country.

Assad calls for forming a national unity government representing all the spectrums of the Iraqi people, stressing that Syria stands at equal distance from all the Iraqis and supports everything agreed upon by the brotherly people of Iraq.

Prime Minister Maliki thanked Assad for Syria's stance and the help it provided for the Iraqi people to achieve security and stability in the country and to preserve its territorial integrity.

Iraqi Prime Minister stressed the need to establish solid relations with Syria on all levels in line with the existing brotherly relations between the two people.

Iraq and Syria have suffered a strained diplomacy for years, going back decades. Efforts to normalize relations suffered a blow last year, when al-Maliki accused Syria of harboring those behind deadly blasts in Baghdad that killed 101 people, The Associated Press reported.

But last month, Iraqi leaders announced they would reopen their embassy in Damascus, and expected Syria to re-establish their ambassador in Baghdad.

The diplomatic thaw also helps Maliki present himself globally as Iraq's undisputed leader while he tries to rally enough support to form a new government -- despite falling short of winning March elections.

Hakim meets Mubarak in Cairo

In other development, Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki’s political ally Omar al-Hakim met Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Tuesday in Cairo.

Al-Hakim, the chairman of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, discussed the latest developments in Iraq, regarding the formation of a new government, with Mubarak, Press TV reported.

The Iraqi politician pointed out that forming a unity government would help end the seven-month political crisis in Iraq.

“We are keen to consult with those powers

[Arab leaders] and to listen to their views, and share with them our perceptions,” but the final decision must be an Iraqi one, he noted.

Hakim was in the Egyptian capital after visiting Turkey and before heading to Saudi Arabia, DPA reported.

On Sunday, Hakim met Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, praising Ankara's stance on Iraq over the past seven months.

Photo: Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (R) meets Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Damascus on October 13, 2010. (SANA photo)



 

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