Beirut, Damascus- President Bashar al-Assad met a Republican member of the U.S. Congress on Thursday, a day after Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ended a visit to Syria that was criticized by the White House.
The official news agency said the meeting between Assad and Darrell Issa , a member of the House Committee on Intelligence, discussed ways to improve relations between Washington and Damascus. He said he and other members of Congress would continue to encourage the Bush administration to engage Syria.
“I have no illusions. We have serious problems to be resolved but we will resolve them,” he said.
"It is difficult to isolate Syria which is pivotal to finding solutions to all issues in the region," the Syrian agency quoted Assad as saying. Issa, who is of Lebanese descent, also met Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem.
More than a dozen U.S. lawmakers have visited Damascus in the last four months and met Assad after the Iraq Study Group recommended to Republican President George W. Bush engaging with Damascus and Iran to help stabilize Iraq.
Pelosi urged Assad on Wednesday to end alleged Syrian support to rebels in Iraq and to use its influence with the Palestinian group Hamas.
Pelosi said holding a dialogue with the secular Syrian leader, whom the Bush administration has been trying to isolate, was in the U.S. interests.
The United States imposed sanctions on Syria in 2004, mainly for its support for Lebanon's Hezbollah and Palestinian Hamas. Syria says the two groups are legitimate movements with broad domestic support resisting Israeli occupation.
The Bush administration also says Syria is contributing to the violence in Iraq by allowing Sunni insurgents to operate from its territory and is destabilizing Lebanon's government. Syria rejects the charges.
Relations between Damascus and Washington further worsened after the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafik al-Hariri in Beirut. A United Nations inquiry implicated Lebanese and Syrian security officials in the assassination.
Damascus denies involvement, but is fighting very hard the International court which will bring to justice all people involved in the murder of Hariri.
Picture: Darrell Issa, Republican member of US Congress from California, left,with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem, right.
Sources: Reuters, AP, Ya Libnan
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