The Syrian president is calling for a "positive" dialogue with Washington whose relations with Damascus have long been strained. Syria's official news agency reported that Bashar Assad spoke Saturday with a US congressional team visiting Damascus. Assad stressed that talks with the United States should be based on "common interests and mutual respect." Syrian-US relations deteriorated sharply during the administration of former President George W. Bush, which accused Syria of allowing foreign fighters to cross its border into Iraq. Washington also pulled its Syrian ambassador after the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Damascus was accused of being involved in the killing but has denied the accusation.