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Syria says ready to offer aid to rebuild Iraq
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07:54, August 21, 2007

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Syrian Prime Minister Mohammad Naji Ottri said Monday his country was ready to offer aid to the Iraqis, participate effectively in rebuilding Iraq and construct what has been destroyed by the war, the official SANA news agency reported.

"Syria will stand by the Iraqi people and back every effort that eases their suffering and helps them overcome their ordeal," Ottri was quoted as saying during an official session of talks with his visiting Iraqi counterpart Nouri al-Maliki.

"Syria has spared no efforts to offer aid to the Iraqis and does her best to support and realize the Iraqi national reconciliation, security and stability," said Ottri.

"Syria endured pressures, social and economic burdens as a result of the existence of nearly 1.5 million Iraqi refugees in Syria," he said.

Ottri also held the occupation forces in Iraq responsible for the social, economic and security deterioration there, referring to the U.S.-led coalition forces.

"The presence of occupation forces in Iraq attracts extremism powers and leads to the escalation of blind violence which claims the lives of innocent people every day in Iraq," said Ottri.

"Putting a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign forces from Iraq will boost opportunities of reconciliation among Iraqis and provide suitable atmospheres for a serious dialogue among different Iraqi parties," he said.

Ottri said the visit of Maliki "will open new horizons of cooperation" between Syria and Iraq, adding that "both sides aspire for activating previous signed agreements and agree on new ones in the fields of economy, trade, transport, energy, agriculture, industry and water."

It was Maliki's first visit to Syria since he took office in 2006. It was also the second time for Maliki to visit a U.S. arch- foe within one month. In early August, Maliki visited another U.S. arch-foe in the region, Iran.

For his part, Maliki described Syrian-Iraqi relations as brotherly and historic, underlining his country's commitment to developing ties with Syria in the economic and social domains.

Maliki stressed the importance of neighboring countries to cooperate with Iraq in order to achieve security and stability and overcome the current plight which the Iraqi people were passing through.

Ottri-Maliki talks concentrated on bilateral cooperation and means to enhance them in all fields, SANA said.

The conditions of the Iraqi refugees in Syria and the economic and social burdens Syria endures, and the necessity of cooperation to tackle this issue were also covered.

Members of the Iraqi delegation expressed appreciation of Syria for providing suitable conditions to the Iraqi refugees' residence in the country.

Maliki, accompanied by his ministers of interior, oil, trade and water resources, arrived here on Monday morning for an official visit.

Syria and Iraq restored diplomatic relations last November after a quarter century's rupture during former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein's regime. Syria and Iraq severed diplomatic ties because Damascus sided with Tehran during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war.

Syria, which strongly opposed the U.S.-led invasion against Iraq, has been accused by Washington of doing little to stop anti- U.S. militants and weapons from infiltrating into Iraq, an allegation denied by Damascus.

Source: Xinhua

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