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Syrian, Lebanese Leaders Hold Groundbreaking Talks

VOA News 19 December 2009

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri held talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus Saturday, in an effort to repair relations between their two countries.

An aide to Mr. Assad (Buthaina Shaaban) said the two leaders met for three hours, and their discussions were positive and frank. They are scheduled to hold further talks Sunday.

This is Mr. Hariri's first visit to Syria since the 2005 assassination of his father, the late Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.

A U.N. investigation blamed Syria for the assassination plot, but officials in Damascus denied any involvement. A remote-controlled bomb explosion in Beirut killed the elder Mr. Hariri and dozens of others and injured 100 or more people.

The spectacular attack stirred strong anti-Syrian sentiment in Lebanon and popular pressure eventually prompted Syria to withdraw its troops from Lebanon after 30 years. The two countries re-established full diplomatic ties only earlier this year.

Last month, Mr. Hariri told parliament he was interested in returning to the close ties between Syria and Lebanon that have marked their relations for centuries.

Some information for this report provided by AP and Reuters.

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