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Senator Kerry: Syria 'Very Important' to Peace Efforts

U.S. Senator John Kerry met with officials in Syria Thursday, saying the country maintains a "very important" role in achieving peace in the Middle East.

Kerry spoke to reporters in the Syrian capital, Damascus, after meeting with President Bashar al-Assad.

Kerry chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He said the United States remains concerned about the flow of weapons through Syrian territory to the Lebanese-based militant group Hezbollah. He said the movement of weapons must stop in order to promote stability and security in the region.

The U.S. has long accused Syria of supporting Hezbollah and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. The U.S. considers both groups terrorist organizations.

On Wednesday, Kerry held talks on Middle East peace efforts in Lebanon. He told Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri that he still hopes progress can be made in the coming weeks.

Kerry called the dispute between Palestinians and Israelis the "single most important" stability issue in the region.

The Obama administration has reached out to Syria in the past year by nominating the first U.S. ambassador to Damascus since 2005 and sending top diplomats to meet with the Syrian president.

The U.S. withdrew its last ambassador to Syria after the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005. Many countries have blamed Syria for the assassination, but Damascus has denied any involvement.

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