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US House of Representatives Speaker Meets Syrian President


The speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, says Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has assured her he is willing to hold peace talks with Israel.

Pelosi met Wednesday in Damascus with Mr. Assad. Pelosi says she delivered a message from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to Mr. Assad that Israel is ready for talks.

Israeli officials clarified Wednesday that Israel is ready to hold peace talks if Syria stops supporting terrorism.

On Tuesday, President Bush criticized Pelosi for visiting Syria. Mr. Bush said Syria is sponsoring terrorism by allowing foreign fighters into Iraq.

Pelosi has said it is important to hold a dialogue with Syria. The Democratic lawmaker from California is the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Syria in years.

Earlier this week, a small group of lawmakers from Mr. Bush's Republican party also met with Mr. Assad.

The bipartisan Iraq Study Group says the United States should open a dialogue with Syria and Iran, but President Bush has refused to do so.

The U.S. withdrew its ambassador from Syria after the country was implicated in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Syria denies any link to the assassination.