In a direct affront to the Bush administration, a Democratic senator spent an hour Wednesday with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus, asking him to do more to stabilize Iraq.
Sen. Bill Nelson, a member of the Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees, met with Assad after the State Department said that it disapproved of his trip. The United States has limited diplomatic ties with Syria because of its support of Hezbollah and Hamas, which the US deems terrorist organizations, and President George W. Bush has expressed reluctance to seek help from Damascus on Iraq until the Syrians curb that support and reduce their influence in Lebanon.
Assad "clearly indicated a willingness to cooperate" in controlling its border with Iraq, Nelson told reporters in a conference call following the meeting. The US says foreign fighters often enter Iraq across that boundary.