Powell travels to Syria and Lebanon

30 April 2003
US Secretary of State Colin Powell is to visit Syria's President Asad on 1 May to discuss face-to-face some of the criticisms Washington has directed at Damascus in recent weeks. Powell will also travel to Lebanon, but will not visit newly-appointed Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, on the grounds that it is too soon after his government's establishment to do so. 'He [Abbas] has some work to do, and I don't want to burden him on day one,' said Powell. The Secretary of State told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he would raise with Asad the issues of harbouring fleeing Iraqi officials, support for Hezbollah and other organisations regarded by Washington as terrorists, and the use by such groups of Syrian and Syrian-controlled Lebanese territory for attacks against Israel.

Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, who last week appointed a more pro-Syrian cabinet, made a statement of support for Damascus on 29 April. 'The relationship of Lebanon and Syria is the result of a decisive and fateful choice on the basis of our heritage, history, brotherhood and joint interests,' he told parliament. 'The government is determined to deepen and develop the relations in political economic and cultural spheres.' Hariri also said that the continued threat to Lebanon from Israel made co-ordination with Syria essential and that the continued presence of some 20,000 Syrian troops on Lebanese soil was necessary for security.

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