Saudi FM meets Assad; Syria denies US claims it has WMD
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal discussed Iraqi security and sovereignty Monday with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during an unexpected visit to Damascus, the official SANA news agency said.
Their talks focused on "efforts by Iraq's neighbors to restore security and stability and to preserve the country's territorial integrity," SANA said. Syrian Foreign Minister Faruq al-Shara took part in the discussions, it added.
Saudi Arabia has decided to call for convening an urgent regional conference with the participation of the countries neighboring Iraq. Al-Faisal noted that the conference would be held at the level of foreign ministers of the concerned countries in Riyadh on Friday 18, 2003.
Syrian President Bashar Assad met also Monday with British Junior Foreign Minister Mike O'Brien, who came to Damascus as part of a tour that would also take him to Iraq.
A British Embassy official said O'Brien's visit was "part of ongoing dialogue between Syria and Britain," adding that Britain was interested in conducting consultations on post-Saddam Hussein Iraq with all the countries neighboring Iraq.
Meanwhile, the Syrian government denied charges by U.S. officials that Syria has weapons of mass destruction and is sheltering Iraqi leaders.
"Of course Syria has no chemical weapons. They (Americans) have been talking for years about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. But so far, the presence of these weapons has not been confirmed," said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Bouthayna Shaaban.
"There are biological, chemical and nuclear weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East region. They are in Israel, not in Syria," she said in a telephone interview with Lebanon's Al-Hayat-LBC satellite channel late Sunday.
Shaaban also told al-Jazeera television that Syria wanted dialogue with the United States. "The problem is all the accusations against Syria come from Israel," she said. "Israel is the primary instigator to undermine Syrian-American relations." (Albawaba.com)
© 2003 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)