Iraq, Syria, Iran form friendly relations

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

24 years ago Iraq and Syria severed diplomatic relations because Syria accused Iraq of giving support to the Muslim Brotherhood who were causing disorder in Syria. Now, as an outcome of meetings between Walid Moallem the Syrian Foreign Minister, the Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, relations will be restored.

Both countries are agreed that the borders between them should be sealed more tightly to prevent the flow of fighters, arms and ammunition to Iraq, Syria saying that Iraq should do more to secure the border than it has been doing lately.

The two countries are agreed that US troops are needed in Iraq at present but that they should leave as soon as they are no longer needed. Syria wants a timetable for the progressive withdrawal of US forces.

The steps needed to establish full diplomatic relations and to open embassies in Baghdad and Damascus are set out in an agreement signed today in Baghdad. Zebari proclaimed "We will hoist the Iraqi flag in Syria and the Syrian flag in Iraq”.

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Meanwhile, President Talabani has agreed to meet Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran on Saturday to discuss security matters.

Although the British Prime Minister has been encouraging more positive relations between Iraq and its neighbors, Syria and Iran, the United States has been critical of both of them. Last week, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she was opposed to including Syria and Iran in talks about security in Iraq. She accused Syria of having aligned itself with "the forces of extremism" and expressed frustration that despite repeated talks with Syria, nothing seems to have influenced their behavior. Regarding Iran, she said she could see nothing in its behavior that suggested it could contribute to stability in the area. She expressed the view that Iraq must take more responsibility for its own security.

Today, the White House welcomed the news of the rapprochement between Syria and Iraq. The spokesman for the US National Security Council saying "We’ve always encouraged Iraq’s neighbors to take a role in supporting and assisting the unity government in Iraq”.

President Bush met the Iraq Study Group, headed by former secretary of state James Baker on Monday. The Democrats in the Group said that, in order to encourage the Iraqi government to face its responsibilities, there should be a phased withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, starting now. The President rejected this suggestion, remarking that this was a military matter and depended upon the situation on the ground.

Recommendations from the bi-partisan study Group are expected to be delivered to the President and Congress sometime in December this year. The group is composed of five Democrats and five Republicans.

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