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Syrian, Egyptian Presidents Meet for Talks on Iraq


Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak declined to talk with reporters following their meeting in Cairo. But government sources say much of their conversation concerned Iraq.

In what was described as a working lunch, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak discussed the threat of a U.S. led attack on Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.

Egyptian government sources said the talks primarily centered on how Syria and Egypt can work together in an effort to avert a military strike against Baghdad.

Following their three-hour meeting the two men issued a joint statement that stressed the need to strengthen the international opposition to a strike on Iraq, so that the peoples of the region, according to the statement, "can avoid a disaster."

They demanded a quick resumption of U.N. weapons inspections in Iraq.

According to Egyptian government sources, President Mubarak briefed the Syrian leader on his recent meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz and Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri. The three men met in Riyadh last Wednesday.

Following the meeting, Mr. Mubarak said he told the Iraqi official that his government must allow the full and unfettered return of U.N. weapons inspectors.

Syria and Egypt have said they oppose military intervention in Iraq.

But while Egypt has said it would ultimately support a decision reached by the U.N. Security Council, Syrian officials have said they would support Iraq if the U.S. launches an attack. The officials have declined to say what kind of support Syria would or could provide.

Syrian officials have expressed concern an attack on Iraq could possibly spread to Syria, which is on the State Department's list of countries that sponsor terrorism. The U.S. administration has never suggested an attack against Iraq would spread to any Arab country.

A Syrian foreign ministry spokesman said Mr. Assad's brief visit to Egypt was intended to invigorate Arab solidarity, especially among Syria, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

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