Page last updated at 17:37 GMT, Wednesday, 27 August 2008 18:37 UK

Sarkozy confirms Syria visit date

Nicolas Sarkozy and Bashar al-Assad at the Paris summit
Mr Sarkozy hosted Mr Assad in Paris in July for a ground-breaking summit

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has announced he will visit Syria on 3-4 September as part of efforts to improve ties between the two countries.

Mr Sarkozy said the trip was aimed at pursuing "necessary dialogue" with leaders in Damascus.

Relations between Paris and Damascus plummeted after the murder of former Lebanese PM Rafik Hariri in 2005.

Syria's critics accuse Damascus of being behind the assassination, a charge Syria has firmly denied.

Mr Sarkozy hosted Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in July and correspondents he appears determined to bring Syria, a long-time foe of the US and Israel, back into the international fold.

During the Paris summit, Syria and Lebanon, an important ally of France, agreed to open embassies in each other's capitals for the first since the 1940s.

The deal was sealed during a trip by Lebanon's President, Michel Suleiman, to Damascus two weeks ago, where the two leaders also discussed other long-standing issues.

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