Saudi King due in Syria as ties improve: Report



Saudi King due in Syria as ties improve: Report Damascus: Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah is expected in Syria on Wednesday in a further sign of warming ties between the two Arab states, a newspaper close to the government reported.

It will be the monarch's first visit to Syria since he acceded to the throne in 2005.

"King Abdullah will arrive in Syria this afternoon for a two-day official visit, at the head of an important delegation," the Al-Watan daily reported.

On Monday the royal court in an announcement carried by the official Saudi news agency SPA said Abdullah would travel to Syria "in the coming days."

Relations between Damascus and Riyadh deteriorated in the wake of the 2003 invasion of Iraq over Saudi support for the United States.

Abdullah's trip confirms the improving ties between Damascus and Riyadh, long rivals for influence in the Arab world whose relations soured further after the allegedly Syrian-linked 2005 murder of Lebanon's ex-premier Rafiq Hariri.

Hariri, who also held Saudi nationality, was close to the monarchy in the oil-rich Gulf state and had extensive business interests in the kingdom.

Riyadh has likewise been at odds with Damascus over its warm relations with Saudi Arabia's rival Iran and its support for Lebanon's Shiite militant movement Hezbollah.

In early July, Riyadh named a new ambassador to Syria after leaving the post vacant for a year and a visit to Damascus by Abdullah has been in the works since that time, according to Saudi officials.

Bureau Report