Source AP ©

Iraqi Prime Minister Al-Maliki makes first-ever visit to Syria

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki came to Syria on Monday morning for his first official visit.

The United States and Iraq have repeatedly accused Syria of failing to rein in the flow of militants, foreign fighters and arms across the porous boundary into Iraq.

Syria denies the charges that it is fueling the anti-American insurgency, saying it is impossible to control the long desert border.

Last week, al-Maliki went to Turkey and Iran, and said he would continue traveling to other countries to seek help in stemming the violence that has ravaged Iraq.

Syria's official news agency SANA said that al-Maliki's talks here would deal with the current security and political situation in Iraq, as well as economic cooperation between the two countries.

Syria hosts nearly 2 million Iraqi refugees who have sheltered mostly in Damascus and its suburbs. Damascus has lately complained of the increasing number of Iraqis pouring into the country and has called on the U.S. and the Iraqi government to shoulder their responsibilities and share the burden of providing for the refugees.

Al-Maliki was accompanied on the trip by a high-level Iraqi delegation, including ministers of interior, trade, oil and water resources. He is expected to hold talks with Syrian leaders, including President Bashar Assad, his deputy Farouk Sharaa and al-Maliki's Syrian counterpart Naji Ottri.

"This visit is to implement the government's policy that depends on the basis of security, economic and political relations with the neighboring countries and ways to enhance these relations," al-Maliki told reporters accompanying him on the trip.

"We will discuss the serious security file and its challenges, which concern not only Iraq but the whole region," al-Maliki said. "We will discuss the Iraqi community and immigrants in Syria and the ways to provide them with services."

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