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Syrian president hopeful of restoring US ties

Syrian President Bashar Assad said in an interview published today that he has been impressed by friendly gestures from President Barack Obama but is still waiting to see results.

world Updated: Feb 18, 2009 15:25 IST

Syrian President Bashar Assad said in an interview published on Wednesday that he has been impressed by friendly gestures from President Barack Obama but is still waiting to see results. Assad was quoted in The Guardian newspaper as saying he is encouraged by the new US president's promise to engage with nations that have been at odds with the United States. The Syrian leader welcomed the forthcoming visit by US Sen John Kerry, chairman of the Senate's Foreign Relations Committee, and other members of Congress.

"We have the impression that this administration will be different, and we have seen the signals. But we have to wait for the reality and the results," Assad was quoted as saying. Relations with Syria were severed by Washington in 2005 because of suspicions that Syria was behind the murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri. Syria strongly denied the accusations. "Sending these delegations is important," Assad was quoted as saying. "This number of congressmen coming to Syria is a good gesture. It shows that this administration wants to see dialogue with Syria.

"What we have heard from Obama, (Secretary of State Hillary) Clinton and others is positive."

However, he added: "We are still in the period of gestures and signals. There is nothing real yet."

The United States has a unique and important role in Middle East peace efforts, Assad said, adding that his country also cannot be ignored.

"If you want to talk about peace, you can't advance without Syria," he was quoted as saying.