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US Mideast Envoy Considering Syria Visit


Officials said U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell is considering a trip to Syria, as the Obama administration works to improve relations with Damascus.

U.S. and Syrian officials confirmed Friday that Mitchell and his team have applied for Syrian visas for an as-yet unannounced visit to the country. But U.S. officials caution Mitchell's schedule is uncertain and he may not end up making the trip.

If Mitchell travels to Syria, he would be the highest-level U.S. official to visit the Middle Eastern country since U.S. President Barack Obama took office.

Acting Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman and White House Middle East expert Daniel Shapiro traveled to Damascus last week, the same time President Obama announced he was renewing sanctions against Syria.

In renewing the sanctions, President Obama accused Syria of supporting terrorism, pursuing weapons of mass destruction and missile programs, and undermining U.S. and international efforts to stabilize Iraq.

But U.S. officials said the move does not mean the new administration is abandoning efforts at boosting ties in the hope of persuading the Damascus government to rein in militant groups and be more supportive of regional peace efforts.

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

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