Syrian economic progress linked to peace efforts: French PM



DAMASCUS - Syria can make economic progress by helping Middle East peace efforts, including finding an agreement on Iran's nuclear drive, visiting French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said on Saturday.
"One of the conditions of continued economic development in Syria is peace and security in the region," Fillon said at the opening of an economic forum in Syria's capital Damascus.



Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
"If France decides to resume and strengthen dialogue with Syria, it will be because we believe Syria has a key role in establishing peace in the Middle East," said Fillon.
"What must prevail is truth and transparency. To improve the situation, everyone must make an effort."
Fillon, the first head of a French government to visit Syria in more than 30 years, singled out world powers' standoff with Syria's ally Iran over its nuclear drive as an issue in which Damascus can play a positive role.
"Peace requires a change in attitude of the Iranian government," said the French premier, adding that "Iran is not complying with international rules and constantly violates UN Security Council resolutions."
"We have reached out to the Iranian government without success" so far, he said. referring to Tehran's rejection late last year of an offer from the UN atomic watchdog regarding the enrichment of uranium by the Islamic republic.
"We hope that Syria will help us in this effort for Iran to renounce decisions that endanger world peace," said French prime minister.
Fillon was accompanied by Economic Minister Christine Lagarde, Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand and a delegation of French businessmen when he arrived in Damascus on Friday.
He held talks later with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Paris hopes to build economic ties with Syria at a time when the Arab country is opening up more and more to foreign investments as part of its reforms.
Ties between France and Syria have warmed since Assad paid a landmark visit to Paris in 2008 for Bastille Day. French President Nicolas Sarkozy went to Damascus two months later, and Assad revisited Paris last November.
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Sunday, February 21st 2010
AFP
           


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