President Bashar Assad of Syria has told British Prime Tony Blair there are no terrorists in Syria - only "press officers". He told Blair Palestinian operatives had the right to live in his country - and had the right to "express the opinions" of Palestinians.
Assad met Blair at Downing Street Monday at the start of the Syrian leader's short UK visit. Both leaders admitted during a press conference there had been differences of opinion over international terrorism and the Palestinian issue.
Britain has in the past urged Syria to do more to rein in the activities of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hizbullah. President Assad stated: "Of course we don't have, in Syria, organisations supporting terrorism. We have press officers.
"These press officers represent Palestinians who live in Syria and Palestinians who live in Palestine."
On his part, Blair said: "These disagreements are obvious and clear." He added: "I believe that the process of engagement with Syria is the right way forward."
In another development, Blair announced that he would invite Palestinian leaders to London in January, in an attempt to promote reforms and push ahead with the peace process.
"I can announce today that I am inviting leading Palestinians to come to Britain in January to a conference along with members of the quartet and other countries from the region closely involved in supporting the reform efforts," Blair told the House of Commons. "It will discuss progress on reform and look at how the international community can help."
"It is in the interest of both the Palestinians and the Israelis that these reforms succeed so we can make a reality of President Bush's vision of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security," the British leader said. (Albawaba.com)
© 2002 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )