Iraq and Syria restore diplomatic relations

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Diplomatic relations between Syria and Iraq were restored today after being severed 24 years ago.

Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said: "The latest talks between the Syrian and Iraqi side have been crowned by declaring a new era with the participation of the Syrian brothers in working on the security and stability with Iraq and restoring full diplomatic relations."

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem arrived in Iraq on Sunday in the first such visit by a senior Syrian official since the 2003 fall of Saddam Hussein's regime. He was expected to return to Damascus later today.

After the signing ceremony, Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told reporters that the names of ambassadors would be announced soon.

"Iraq's flag will fly in the sky of Damascus and Syria's flag will fly in the sky of Baghdad," Zebari said.

On arrival, Moallem had called for a timetable for the withdrawal of US forces, saying that would reduce violence.

Zebari said the presence of the 140,000-strong American force was "approved by the Iraqi government".

Syria broke diplomatic ties with Iraq in 1982, accusing it of inciting riots in Syria by the banned Muslim Brotherhood. Damascus also sided with Iran in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.

Trade ties between Iraq and Syria were restored in 1997.

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