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US Asks for Meeting With Syrian Ambassador on Nuclear Issue

U.S. officials have called for a meeting with Syria's ambassador to the United States to address concerns over Syria's possible nuclear program and its alleged support of terrorist groups.

State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid said Friday that Ambassador Imad Mustafa has been invited to meet with Acting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman next week.

Relations between Syria and the U.S. have been strained and such meetings are infrequent.

Duguid says U.S. officials will reiterate long-standing concerns about Syria's interference in Lebanese affairs, its support for radical opponents of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, its efforts to acquire non-conventional weapons, and its human rights record.

The spokesman cited the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, report Thursday that said traces of uranium were found at a Syrian site that is suspected of being a covert nuclear plant. The State Department urged full Syrian cooperation with the IAEA.

The United States has not had a full-fledged ambassador in Damascus since 2005, after the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Washington also has accused Syria of allowing militants to cross its border into Iraq.

On Wednesday, U.S. Senator Ben Cardin met with President Bashar al-Assad during a trip to Syria and said relations between the two countries can only improve if Syria changes its ways.

President Assad told a British newspaper this week that he hopes for a new relationship with the U.S. now that the administration of former President George W. Bush is over. The Syrian president also said he expects President Barack Obama to send an ambassador back to Damascus soon.

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