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Iraqi Premier Meets With Syrian President

24 July 2004 -- Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi met with Syrian President Bashar Assad today for talks that Allawi said would begin a new period of cooperation between the two neighbors.

Assad and Allawi were expected to discuss security issues and efforts to strengthen bilateral relations. Syria opposed the Iraq war that led to Allawi taking power last month.

Syria has denied U.S. charges of allowing Islamic militants to enter Iraq.

Allawi -- who arrived in Damascus yesterday -- thanked Syria for supporting and welcoming Iraqis "when we were struggling against the dictatorship in Iraq."

Allawi is expected to meet later today with Syrian Vice President Abdel-Halim Khaddam before going tomorrow to neighboring Lebanon on a regional tour that already has taken him to Egypt and Jordan.