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Syrian Leader Urges US to Work for Middle East Peace

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has called on the United States to play a greater role in the Middle East peace process.

Syria's state-run news agency (SANA) says Mr. Assad made the appeal during a meeting Thursday in Damascus with U.S. Congressman Alcee Hastings.

It says President Assad also voiced support for the security and stability of Iraq, and for Iraq's territorial integrity.

The news agency says Congressman Hastings voiced hope that U.S.-Syrian relations will improve in a way that benefits the entire region.

Hastings is part of a U.S. congressional delegation visiting the Middle East.

The Obama administration has been working to improve relations with Syria and to advance the Middle East peace process.

The United States announced last year it plans to reinstate its ambassador to Syria after a four-year absence.

The U.S. has long accused Syria of supporting Islamic militant groups, such as Hamas and Hezbollah, which the U.S. considers terrorist groups. Washington also has voiced concern about Syria's human rights record and its role in neighboring Lebanon.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.