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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Jimmy Carter: U.S. and Syria to restore full diplomatic ties soon

Jimmy Carter: U.S. and Syria to restore full diplomatic ties soon
By News Agencies
Tags: jimmy carter, israel news

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter on Tuesday said that the United States and Syria are close to restoring full diplomatic ties.

"Syrian President Bashar Assad is very eager to restore full ties with Washington," Carter said. "I wouldn't be surprised if it happens this year," Carter said in a telephone interview from Quito, Ecuador, at the start of a four-nation South American trip.

He plans to meet Assad in Syria in early June after attending elections in Lebanon.

The United States withdrew its ambassador to Syria in 2005 after the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, which was widely blamed on Syria - a claim Damascus denies. Washington has long objected to Syria's support for the Hezbollah and Hamas militant groups as well as its alliance with Iran.

Syria has recently expressed openness to indirect peace talks with Israel as long as they focus on a complete withdrawal from the Golan Heights, which Israel captured in the 1967 Six-Day War.

Meanwhile, Assad on Tuesday said that U.S. President Barack Obama would face a serious crisis in the Middle East if within a year he did not fix the mistakes made by his predecessor George W. Bush.

Speaking in Vienna with Austrian leaders and intellectuals near the end of his two-day visit, Assad called on the United States to quickly withdraw its troops from Iraq, which would resolve "50 per cent of the problem," Austrian press agency APA reported.

Earlier Tuesday, Austrian leaders urged Assad to use Syria's influence to stabilize the wider Middle East region.

Austrian President Heinz Fischer said that Syria should get Tehran to respond constructively to resolutions of the United Nations Security Council and proposals from the international community for resolving the nuclear standoff with Iran.

Assad said in the evening discussion that Syria could not play a role in the nuclear issue, though it would help to solve it.

Echoing Tehran's position, Assad called on the Security Council to refer the matter of Iran's nuclear intentions back to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which has a more technical outlook.

Assad met with Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann, who urged Damascus to get Palestinian militants to work toward peace with Israel and to curb their terrorist activities, his spokesman, Thomas Zehetner, told German Press Agency DPA.

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