Assad meets three members of US congress

Frank Wolf (Republican, Virginia), Joe Pitts (Republican, Pennsylvania) and Robert Aderholt (Republican, Alabama) discuss US-Syrian relations.

assad 88 (photo credit: )
assad 88
(photo credit: )
Syrian President Bashar Assad held talks Sunday with three members of the US House of Representatives in a review of US-Syrian relations, regional developments and the stalled Mideast peace process. Representatives Frank Wolf (Republican, Virginia), Joe Pitts (Republican, Pennsylvania) and Robert Aderholt (Republican, Alabama) had arrived in Damascus on Saturday on a two-day visit. The official Syrian News Agency SANA said the two sides also discussed the situation in Iraq in addition to the Mideast regional issues. Earlier in the day, the US delegation held talks with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem. On Saturday, the three congressmen held talks with Syria's grand mufti, Ahmed Hassoun. A press release by the US embassy in Damascus said the delegation would discuss with Syrian officials a full-range of topics relating to US-Syria relations and regional issues. The visit is a prelude for the visit to Damascus on Tuesday of the leader of the US House of Representatives, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Democrat, California), the highest-ranking official to visit Damascus in four years. Pelosi, heading a congressional delegation, is on a fact-finding trip to the Middle East that includes Israel, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. Her visit to Syria, which drew objections from the administration of President George W Bush, likely comes in response to recent and mounting calls in the US to engage Syria as part of a diplomatic effort to bring stability in the region, and in Iraq in particular, local political analysts say. Syrian-US relations have been strained for several years. Washington accuses Syria of aiding terrorism because of its support for radical Palestinian groups based in Damascus and for the Lebanese Hezbollah party. It also accuses Syria of aiding the Iraqi insurgency by allowing militants to cross into Iraq. Syria denies promoting the insurgency, saying it cannot have absolute control over its long and porous desert border with Iraq. It regards the radical Palestinian groups as legitimate opponents of Israeli occupation. The United States withdrew its ambassador to Damascus after the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, which many Lebanese blamed on Syria. Damascus denies any role in the killing.