�Stay away� US warned

Gulf Daily News (Link) (July 30, 2010)

Syria yesterday warned the US to stop trying to interfere as Arab leaders try to defuse heightened tensions in the Middle East.

Saudi King Abdullah, who arrived in Syria yesterday, was expected to travel with the Syrian president to Beirut today to help calm concerns over pending indictments in the 2005 assassination of Lebanon�s former prime minister.

US State Department spokesman P J Crowley said in Washington that he hoped Syrian President Bashar Assad would �listen very attentively� to Abdullah, a US ally.

Washington has urged Syria to move away from its alliance with Iran.

Syria responded that the US �has no right to determine our relationships with regional states or interfere in the content of the talks.�

The US also urged Abdullah and Assad to encourage the Palestinians to resume direct peace talks with Israel.

�We hope that they will arrive at the conclusion that we have already drawn, which is the sooner we get into direct negotiations, the better,� Crowley added.

Syria and Saudi Arabia have long been on opposite sides of a deep rift in the Arab world. The kingdom is a US ally, along with Jordan and Egypt, while Syria backs militant groups such as the Lebanese Hizbollah and Palestinian Hamas.

Syria also is Iran�s strongest ally in the Arab world - a major sticking point with the US.

Relations between Syria and Saudi Arabia have begun to thaw in recent years, and the visit by the Saudi monarch is a sign the countries are trying to show a united front as tempers mount in the region, including those in Lebanon over the investigation into who killed former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri.

Syria�s official news agency said Assad and Abdullah agreed that the �challenges facing Arabs, mainly in occupied Palestine, necessitate that all Arabs double their efforts to upgrade inter-Arab relations.�

Many in Lebanon blame Syria for Hariri�s assassination, a claim that Damascus denies.

Hariri�s death followed massive anti-Syrian protests in 2005 dubbed the �Cedar Revolution.�

The demonstrations eventually led to the withdrawal of Syrian troops, ending almost three decades of Syrian domination.

An international tribunal investigating Hariri�s death has not announced who will be charged, but the leader of the Hizbollah said members of his group will be among those indicted.