- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 20, 2003

DAMASCUS, Syria, April 20 (UPI) — Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak conferred Sunday with Syrian leader Bashar Assad in Damascus on post-war Iraq and tensions between the United States and Syria.

Mubarak later traveled to Manama, Bahrain, to meet with King Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa.

Diplomatic sources said the Mubarak-Assad talks were to reaffirm the Syrian-Egyptian strategic alliance and improve a recent strain in bilateral relations.

Sources said the two leaders will also discuss U.S. allegations that Syria may be developing chemical weapons and possibly harboring officials of ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's Baath Party regime. Syria has denied the accusations.

Syrian officials expressed satisfaction that Egypt and Iraq's other neighbors whose foreign ministers met in Riyadh on Friday rejected Washington's threats against Syria and the U.S.-British "occupation" of Iraq.

Syrian-Egyptian relations were strained because of the U.S.-led war on Iraq, which was opposed by Damascus. Syrian anti-war demonstrators angered Egypt for shouting slogans against Mubarak and his lenient stand on the war.

Observers expected Egypt to use its good relations with Syria and the United States to narrow differences between them.

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