| GEO World|
New Iraq govt will help ties, Assad says
| Updated at: 1940 PST, Wednesday, October 13, 2010|
DAMASCUS: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told visiting Iraqi premier Nuri al-Maliki that better ties between the two nations will be strengthened by the formation of a new Iraqi government.
Assad said he was "happy" that improving ties between Baghdad and Damascus "will be strengthened and completed with the formation of the Iraqi government soon," according to a statement from Maliki's office.
"Our attitude about the formation of the government is clear: the solution must be Iraqi," Assad was quoted as saying.
"Iraq has a great history, no one can order" it what to do, the Syrian leader said, adding: "Iraqis own that decision."
The statement was issued after Maliki arrived in Damascus and held talks with Assad following a year-long row as the Iraqi leader seeks to win support for his bid to remain in power.
It said the two leaders "discussed the improving of relations between the two countries to serve the joint interest and strengthen security and stability in the area."
On Sunday, Iraq's ambassador to Damascus resumed his duties, more than a year after ties were strained following massive truck bombings in Baghdad. Iraq said the attacks were plotted in Syria, a charge denied by Damascus.
"What we have between us is special... Iraq and Syria cannot get by without each other," the Iraqi premier was quoted as saying.
"The relations between Syria and Iraq are different from relations with other countries," he said.
Maliki will also hold talks with his Syrian counterpart Mohammed Naji Otri during the trip, which comes two weeks after his main rival for the premiership, ex-premier Iyad Allawi, visited Damascus.
His visit comes as he seeks support for his bid to retain the premiership after March 7 elections in which his Shiite bloc finished a narrow second behind Allawi's Sunni-dominated Iraqiya group.
"We have made good progress," the Iraqi premier said in the statement, adding: "The government should be formed on correct bases, we are working to make it a balanced government.
"Things are moving toward a real partnership between all of the blocs, and the alliances have started to open dialogue with each other.
"Only Iraqis are responsible on the decision of forming the government and our demand from our brothers is for support for this," said Maliki.
Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose radical movement controls 40 seats in parliament, has thrown its support behind Maliki, whose party still falls short of the parliamentary majority needed to form a government.
Maliki needs the support of the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, another Shiite group, headed by Ammar al-Hakim, to forge a majority.
He hopes that Hakim, who has close ties with Syria, will soften his opposition to his candidacy.