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Syria Calls for Peaceful Resolution to Iraq Dispute - 2003-01-22

Middle East foreign ministers meeting Thursday in Turkey are expected to call for a non-violent solution to the dispute over Iraq's weapons program.

Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharah reiterated Syria's long-standing position that the current crisis in Iraq must be solved by peaceful means.

Mr. al-Sharah said a regional foreign ministers meeting Thursday in Istanbul will emphasize the importance of international institutions in resolving the Iraq crisis and will disapprove of any hostile action.

Turkish officials have said the focus of the meeting will be to urge Iraq to cooperate more fully with U.N. weapons inspectors.

Mr. al-Sharah also announced that Syria is organizing a follow-up meeting to the Istanbul talks, but he did not say when it would be held.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said on numerous occasions that Syria would do everything possible to avoid an attack on Iraq.

Relations between Iraq and Syria have warmed in recent years, but Syria voted in favor of the U.N. Security Council resolution that authorized the current round of inspections.