Pull the troops out, Syria urges

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moualem on a visit to Baghdad to restore diplomatic contacts called for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq to curb violence and increase security.

Walid Moualem is the most senior Syrian minister to visit Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

“We believe that a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq will help in reducing violence and preserving security,” Moualem said. He arrived as coalition leaders recognise the important role Syria and Iran can play in bringing stability to the area.

As U.S. President George Bush awaits recommendations of the Baker commission in Washington, Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair has been pushing for co-operation in the region.

Syria's foreign minister is already on record saying Damascus was ready to engage in dialogue with Washington in a bid to achieve stability in Iraq and the Middle East.

Violence in Iraq is splitting the population along sectarian lines – dividing the largely Sunni north from the Shia south – leading many experts to claim civil war has already begun.