Syria, U.S set meeting in Rome

Monday, August 23, 2004

Syria and the United States plan to discuss bilateral relations in the wake of American sanctions on the regime of President Bashar Assad.

The United States plans to press Syria to sever its ties to groups deemed terrorist, withdraw from Lebanon, halt its missile and weapons of mass destruction programs and end the flow of insurgents to Iraq. The Bush administration has not ruled out additional sanctions against Damascus should Assad fail to respond to these demands.

Western diplomatic sources said representatives from the two countries plan to meet in Rome on Aug. 27, Middle East Newsline reported. The sources said Syria and the United States are expected to discuss regional issues, cooperation against Al Qaida as well as Iraq.

"Both parties will see whether there has been any change in the positions of the other side," a diplomat said.

"Syria was a major disappointment," U.S. Rep. Tom Lantos, the ranking Democrat on the House International Relations Committee, said after meeting Syrian leaders in Damascus last week.

The diplomatic sources said the United States was also expected to demand that Syria allow the selection of a replacement for President Emile Lahoud, whose term expires on Nov. 24. Syria has been considering allowing Lebanon to revise the constitution so that the pro-Syrian Lahoud could remain in his post.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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