Assad: Syria wants better ties with US

Syria's president told a visiting US senator Wednesday his country wants to develop relations with the United States after several years of tensions. Bashar Assad's talks with Sen. Benjamin Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, focused on developing bilateral relations "through serious and positive dialogue based on mutual respect and joint interest in finding just solutions to the region's problems," Syria's official news agency reported. His visit comes after President Barack Obama offered to engage countries that had been at odds with the US He is to be followed by two more congressional delegations to Damascus this week, including one headed by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry. The Syrian news agency said talks also dealt with Middle East developments and "what could be done to boost peacemaking efforts in the Middle East, in addition to the need to combat terrorism." Cardin was quoted by SANA as emphasizing the importance of continuing dialogue between Damascus and Washington.