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Iraq PM to Visit Syria Wednesday after Year-long Row

Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is to visit Syria on Wednesday for talks with President Bashar al-Assad after a year-long spat between the neighbors sparked by massive bombings in Baghdad.

"Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is to start on Wednesday, tomorrow, a visit to Syria, our brother country, where he will meet his Excellency, President Bashar al-Assad, and Prime Minister Mohammed Naji Otri," it said.

"This visit aims to improve relations in the political, economic and commercial sectors in the interests of both countries," Maliki's office said in a statement issued on Tuesday.

It said Maliki's mission to Damascus was part of a series of visits "to different Arab capitals in response to invitations which he has received."

On Sunday, Iraq's ambassador to Damascus resumed his duties, more than a year after the spat sparked by massive truck bombs which Baghdad said were plotted in Syria, a charge denied by Damascus.

The envoys of Syria and Iraq were recalled by their respective governments in August 2009 in the wake of the bombings, which devastated the finance and foreign affairs ministries in Baghdad and left 95 dead and around 600 wounded.

Alaa Hussein al-Jawadi was appointed Iraq's first ambassador in February 2009 when the neighbors re-established diplomatic ties after 28 years. Syria's ambassador to Iraq, Nawaf al-Fares, was named to Baghdad four months earlier.

Iraq accused Syria of sheltering two insurgents, Mohammed Yunis al-Ahmed and Sattam Farhan, who orchestrated last year's massive bomb attacks, prompting denials from Damascus.

Baghdad's government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said last month that the request for the extradition of the two men was still pending, but Iraq believed "relations need to develop with good will from both sides."

Dabbagh added that Baghdad wanted to boost economic ties with Damascus, after the two sides agreed last month to build two oil pipelines linking Iraq to Mediterranean sea ports via Syria for exporting crude.(AFP)


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