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First Syria visit for Iraqi PM

First Syria visit for Iraqi PM
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Urging Syrian support in efforts to curb violence in his country, Iraq’s prime minister is in Damascus. It is Nuri al-Maliki’s first visit to Syria since he took office last year. Baghdad and Washington have accused Iraq’s neighbour of failing to rein in the flow of militants and weapons across the border. Syria denies this.

The country’s premier Naji al-Otri called for a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq, holding them responsible for the violence there. Another talking point was the plight of the nearly two million Iraqi refugees in Syria. In Baghdad, Iraq’s President Jalal Talabani met the visiting French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner.

It is the first time a minister from France has travelled to Iraq since the US-led invasion in 2003, which Paris fiercely opposed. Kouchner said disagreements with the US were now in the past. He added France was ready to play a role in Iraq but only after listening to representatives of its ethnic and sectarian groups. He also urged a bigger role for the UN.