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Last Updated: Monday, 12 March 2007, 17:09 GMT
Syria urges broader US dialogue
Faisal Meqdad and Ellen Sauerbrey
Faisal Meqdad and Ellen Sauerbrey discussed Iraqi refugees
Syria has called for a "serious dialogue" with the US on all matters relating to the Middle East.

Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Meqdad made the call after welcoming US refugees official Ellen Sauerbrey, the most senior US visitor in two years.

The US played down Ms Sauerbrey's visit, insisting all talks were on Iraq-related issues.

Both Syria and another US foe, Iran, attended a key security conference on Iraq in Baghdad last weekend.

Assistant Secretary of State Sauerbrey's visit was to discuss the plight of Iraqi refugees, hundreds of thousands of whom have crossed into Syria to escape the insecurity of Iraq.

The US state department stressed it was not a bilateral visit, saying Ms Sauerbrey was accompanying the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Lasting solution

Mr Meqdad said the Syrian policy on Iraqi refugees had "left a positive impression on the US side".

But he added: "We told [Ms Sauerbrey] that all the questions are linked in the Arab region and that a comprehensive dialogue is needed on all these questions.

"We can't find lasting solutions without such a dialogue."

Ms Sauerbrey, the most senior US visitor to Damascus since then deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage in January 2005, did not speak to the media about her talks.

The US has accused Syria and Iran of helping militants in Iraq.

However, both neighbours were present at the security summit this weekend.

Senior US official, David Satterfield, sat down with Syria's deputy foreign minister at the conference.

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