|Damascus ready to cooperate with U.S. in anti-terror campaign: Muallem||
The Syrian government is ready to cooperate with international and regional efforts to fight terror but efforts must be coordinated with it, the Syrian foreign minister Walid al-Muallem said Monday.
Asked if Syria was ready to cooperate with the United States and Britain, he said, "They are welcome."
Muallem, speaking at a news conference broadcast on Syrian state TV, also condemned the killing of U.S. journalist James Foley, who was executed by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the terrorist group that has seized wide areas of Iraq and Syria.
Syria said it would cooperate in any international efforts to fight Islamic State in the country, after Washington signaled it was considering extending the battle against the militants into Syrian territory.
Muallem presented his country as a vital partner in the war against Islamic State.
"Syria, geographically and operationally, is the center of the international coalition to fight Islamic State," Muallem said. "States must come to it if they are serious in combating terrorism," he added.
Asked about the prospect of U.S. air strikes against ISIL in Syria, Muallem said his government was ready to cooperate with any country fighting militants. But air raids without Damascus's approval would be seen as hostile acts.
While the White House indicated last week that it was considering taking on ISIL in Syria, Washington has also supported the insurgency against Assad and there has been no sign of any shift in U.S. policy towards him.
Qatar mediates release of U.S. hostage
Al-Qaeda-linked rebels in Syria on Sunday freed an American writer missing since 2012 following what officials said were efforts by the Persian Gulf Arab state of Qatar to win his release.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement that Peter Theo Curtis had been held by Nusra Front, al-Qaeda's official wing in Syria whose rivalry with ISIL has fueled war among the insurgents themselves.
President Barack Obama, who was briefed on Curtis' release, "shares in the joy and relief that we all feel now that Theo is out of Syria and safe," the White House said.
News of Curtis' release emerged just days after the ISIL posted a video on the Internet showing one of its members beheading American journalist James Foley, who was kidnapped in Syria in 2012.
A senior UN official said the negotiations for Curtis' release were handled by the Qataris.
White House national security adviser Susan Rice said in a statement that Curtis, 45, was "safe outside of Syria, and we expect he will be reunited with his family shortly."
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