Hariri, Assad hold second meeting

Hariri, Assad continue D

hariri assad touchy feely 248.88 AP (photo credit: )
hariri assad touchy feely 248.88 AP
(photo credit: )
One day into his first official visit to Damascus, Lebanese Prime Minister Sa'ad Hariri described his talks on Sunday with Syrian President Bashar Assad as "positive," according to the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA). At a press conference at the Lebanese Embassy, Hariri told reporters he was optimistic about the growing diplomatic ties between Syria and Lebanon. "We want to have good relations with Syria based on openness and honesty," the Lebanese premier was quoted as saying, conveying hope that the two neighboring countries would come to a fresh start after decades of war, strife and suspicion. He added that Assad shared his vision for friendly relations. "We positively touched upon all the topics," Hariri said. "Assad was very positive in dealing with all issues pertaining to the Lebanese people." According to the SANA report, Hariri said the two leaders agreed on "practical steps" aimed at furthering economic and diplomatic cooperation between their respective countries. Hariri's visit, which began on Saturday, was his first official visit to Syria as Lebanon's prime minister - a post he undertook only recently, tentatively forming a power-sharing government after over five months of negotiations with the countries' Syrian-backed, Hizbullah-led opposition. It was expected to be a difficult, charged and historic visit. Hariri heads the country's Western-backed 14 March coalition, so named after a 2005 rally in memory of the Lebanese prime minister's father and predecessor, Rafik Hariri, who was murdered in a massive explosion in Beirut that same year. Syria has repeatedly been called on to cooperate with United Nations International Independent Investigation Commission officials charged with investigating the elder Hariri's murder. Several Lebanese military men with close ties to the Syrian government have been arrested on suspicion of involvement in the case. During Hariri and Assad's first meeting, held on Saturday, the two leaders reportedly discussed advancing strategic ties between the nations in a way that would benefit both their peoples. Assad adviser Buthaina Shaaban told reporters their talks were "frank" and "succeeded in overcoming difficulties that had marred relations in the past five years." "The guarantee is the will of both President Assad and Hariri to build a positive and constructive relationship," she said. AP contributed to this report.