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Published:May 4th, 2007 05:11 EST
Sec. Rice Following Pelosis' Path

Sec. Rice Following Pelosis' Path

By SOP newswire

Washington -– Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem May 3 on the margins of the Iraq Neighbors’ Conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, in the highest-level contact between U.S. and Syrian officials since Washington recalled its ambassador from Damascus in February 2005.

Rice characterized the meeting as professional and businesslike.  She said the half-hour discussion between her and her Syrian counterpart focused on Iraq, particularly the issue of foreign fighters crossing the Syrian border and contributing to instability in Iraq.  She said it is in Syria’s interest to stop the flow of foreign fighters because they ultimately could become a source of instability inside Syria as well.

“The Syrians clearly say that they believe that stability in Iraq is in their interest," she told reporters after the meeting, “but actions will speak louder than words."

Rice said, “I have seen some reports that they may be trying to take a little bit better control of this.  But I think we have to wait and see whether the trend is indeed a trend."

She said the United States does not want a difficult relationship with Syria, but needs a basis -- such as concrete steps in helping re-establish stability in Iraq -- for building a better relationship. 

Washington recalled its ambassador from Damascus in protest over suspected Syrian involvement in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.  The United States repeatedly has stated that its lack of high-level diplomatic contacts with Damascus is a result of Syria’s refusal to cooperate on matters of interest to Washington in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian Territories. (See related article.)

Rice said she has no plans to meet with Iranian Foreign Minister Minushahr Mutaki, who also is attending the Iraq Neighbors’ Conference, but added, “If I have an opportunity to deliver a message or to reinforce the message that has been delivered here about the need to support Iraq … then obviously I'd take that opportunity."

By David Shelby
USINFO Staff Writer