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Saturday, 28 February 2009

U.S.: No normal Syria ties until it stops backing Hamas, Hezbollah

The United States reiterated on Friday that despite a meeting held by a State Department official with the Syrian envoy to Washington, there will be no normalization of ties with the Damascus regime until it meets key American demands, including an end to "interference in Lebanese issue issue," a State Department spokesman Robert Wood said on Friday.

U.S. and Syrian diplomats met Thursday in an effort to improve strained ties, though Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said it was too soon to say whether relations would improve.

Syria's ambassador to the United States, Imad Moustapha, met for nearly two hours Thursday with Jeffrey Feltman, the State Department's top diplomat for the Middle East. The first such high-level session since September came at the request of the Obama administration, which sought to discuss how to mend the relationship and possibly work together.

Though hesitant to enunciate how the administration's policies towards Syria will differ from that of the Bush administration, Wood stressed that there are certain principles which Washington will not abandon.

"We felt it was important to communicate our concerns directly and we shall see how the Syrians will respond to it, including the interference on Lebanese internal affairs and their support for terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah," said Wood.