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Syria, Iraq Expected to Sign Trade Agreements - 2001-08-12


For only the second time in 10 years an Arab head of government has made a trip to Iraq. Syrian Prime Minister Mohammed Mustafa Miro arrived Saturday in Baghdad to sign an agreement to boost trade and cultural cooperation between the two countries. But, the rebuilding of a relationship between Syria and Iraq is to many Arabs yet another sign the sanctions against Iraq are crumbling.

The last time a high-ranking Syrian government official traveled to Iraq was more than 20 years ago. That is why the visit of Syrian Prime Minister Miro is grabbing so much attention.

In 1980, Syria backed Iran in its eight-year war with Iraq. Syria was also part of the international coalition that ousted Iraq from Kuwait in 1991.

For two decades hostilities prevailed between the two countries. Now, it appears the hostilities are over. The official Iraqi news agency says Mr. Miro and Iraqi officials are expected to sign an agreement to increase trade and cooperation.

But many Arabs are hopeful the prime minister's appearance in Baghdad signals the beginning of the end of economic sanctions against Iraq.

The secretary general of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, spoke with VOA about the symbolism associated with the prime minister's visit.

"It is an example of the Arab position concerning the continuation of sanctions without any light at the end of the tunnel," he said. "We are all concerned that the situation in Iraq, the suffering of the people in Iraq, as a result of the sanctions will lead to further deterioration in the life conditions of Iraq."

Mr. Miro called for the lifting of the sanctions against Iraq. Those sanctions were imposed in 1990 when Iraq invaded Kuwait.

The prime minister met with Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and other government officials. Relations between Syria and Iraq have been improving ever since 1997 when the two countries reopened their border for trade.