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US sent two diplomats to Syria: Clinton

world Updated: Apr 26, 2009 12:20 IST
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US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Saturday that she had sent two diplomats to Syria and was “heartened” by improved relations between that country and Lebanon.

“I sent two of our diplomats to Syria about six weeks ago. We’ve had members of Congress going to Syria,” Clinton told Alhurra television. “We are heartened by the exchange of ambassadors between Lebanon and Syria.”

But she said no decision had been made about naming a new ambassador to Damascus.

“We hope that Syria will play a constructive role in supporting democracy in Lebanon, but we haven’t made any further decisions,” the secretary noted.

A US congressional delegation made up of Stephen Lynch, a Democrat, and Republican Bob Inglis met with Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad earlier this month.

The lawmakers voiced optimism that the two countries could work together to advance their common interests in the region.

Damascus-Washington ties, long strained over Syria’s alliance with Iran and support for anti-Israel groups such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, have improved under US President Barack Obama.

Relations sank to their lowest ebb under former president George W. Bush’s administration.

It accused Syria of being a gateway for “foreign terrorists” into Iraq to fight alongside Al-Qaeda, of meddling in Lebanon, and also imposed sanctions on Damascus in 2004.

But several high-profile US envoys have visited Damascus this year as the Obama administration pursues a policy of engaging with all countries in the region, even long-time foes.