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Syrian Leader Holds Talks With French President's Top Advisors


Syrian President Bashar Assad has met two top advisors to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, in the latest effort to strengthen the countries' strained relations.

Syria's SANA news agency says the talks in Damascus Sunday focused on bilateral ties, developments in Lebanon and Syria's discussions with Israel. The report says the French aides delivered President Assad a message from Mr. Sarkozy.

Mr. Sarkozy's office called Mr. Assad's meeting with the French Presidency's general secretary, Claude Gueant, and diplomatic consultant, Jean-David Levitte, "useful and constructive."

France cut off high-level contacts with Syria last year, accusing Damascus of involvement in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. Syria has denied the accusations.

Mr. Sarkozy moved to rebuild relations after Syria helped Lebanon's political rivals reach a deal to form a unity government last month.

France has invited the Syrian president to join its national day celebrations in Paris next month. While in Paris, Mr. Assad also will attend a summit to launch a new Mediterranean Union.

Despite France's efforts to improve relations with Syria, Mr. Sarkozy remains allied with the United States in its concerns about Syria's involvement with Iran.

U.S. President George Bush and Mr. Sarkozy have jointly urged Syria to break relations with Iran and end its support for anti-Israeli militants.



Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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