Syria's foreign minister, Farouk al-Shara, says his government will exchange ambassadors with Baghdad when a new Iraqi government is formed.  This is the first time that Damascus has set a time frame for restoring ties.

Al-Shara says Syria welcomes a close relationship with Iraq and is committed to Iraq's territorial integrity and to an end to the U.S. occupation.

Damascus broke off relations with Baghdad more than 20 years ago.  Relations between the two countries deteriorated after Syria sided with Iran in the Iran-Iraq war.  Syria also joined the U.S.-led coalition against Iraq in the 1991 Gulf War.

Iraq is encouraging Arab countries to send ambassadors to Baghdad.   

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