Syria appoints ambassador to France after position vacant for two years

The Syrian news agency said the country has appointed an ambassador to France - a post that remained vacant for two years due to strained relations between the countries. The SANA news agency said Lamia Shakkour was sworn in Sunday in front of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Syrian-French relations deteriorated after the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Syria's critics accuse Damascus of having a role in the slaying, a charge Syria denies. French President Nicolas Sarkozy hosted Assad in July, appearing determined to bring Syria back into the international fold. The French president travels to Syria Sept. 3.