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Assad begins Latin America tour

SYRIA: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad embarks on a landmark Latin American tour Friday to reinforce economic ties with a continent he is visiting for the first time.

Accompanied by his wife, Asma, the Syrian leader will arrive in Venezuela Friday before proceeding to Brazil and Argentina, all three home to large communities of Syrian emigres. He will also visit Cuba to strengthen traditionally close ties. “Bilateral relations and developments in the Middle East and Latin America” will dominate discussions in the four countries, the official SANA news agency said, without providing a detailed schedule of the visit.

“This is a trip that was envisaged for a long time but was not carried out for various reasons,” said a Western diplomat in Damascus.

Boycotted and sidelined for decades by the United States and the West for allegedly supporting terrorism, Syria has begun to assert itself as a key player in the Middle East.

Last month, shortly after the United States accused Syria of supporting “terrorist” groups and renewed sanctions for another year, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev described Damascus as a key political player in the region.

Damascus, Friday, AFP

 

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