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Reports: US to Send Ambassador to Syria After 4-Year Absence

News reports say U.S. President Barack Obama has decided to send an ambassador to Syria after a four-year absence.

The reports quote a senior administration official as saying the State Department informed Syria's ambassador to the United States, Imad Moustapha, of the decision Tuesday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity.

The New York Times quotes one official as saying the move reflects the fact that Syria is a "pivotal country" in achieving a comprehensive peace in the region. The official said Syria can play a role in regional issues and for that, it helps to have a fully staffed embassy.

Earlier this month, U.S. envoy George Mitchell met in Damascus with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for discussions on the Middle East peace efforts.

Washington has long accused Damascus of supporting groups like Hamas that the U.S. considers terrorist organizations. The United States also has voiced concern about Syria's human rights record and its role in neighboring Lebanon.

The U.S. has not had an ambassador in Syria since Syrian officials were implicated in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Syria has denied involvement in the assassination.

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