Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) met Syrian President Bashar Assad earlier today, a week after the Iraq Study Group recommended the Bush administration engage Syria to help stabilize Iraq. Nelson was named to the Senate Intelligence Committee this week and said he was on a fact-finding mission to the region.
Members of Congress have shunned Syria since the assassination in neighboring Lebanon of former PM Rafik al-Hariri in February 2005. The State Department and White House both cautioned Nelson over meeting Assad, who supports Hamas and Hezbollah. Later this month, it is expected that Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) will also visit Damascus.
Nelson and Assad discussed instability in Lebanon, Iraq and the Palestinian territories, the official news agency SANA said. "There was mutual interest to activate dialogue and putting in place mechanisms for cooperation," the agency said.