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Saudi King Makes Overtures To Syria

Saudi King Abdullah kept up his conciliatory approach to Syria on Sunday and sent his son to Damascus to discuss with Syrian President Basher Al-Assad the best ways to improve their bilateral ties, which reached a low ebb over Lebanon, Iraq and to a lesser extent, Palestine.

Syrian officials said the overture came as Assad received earlier in the day Prince Muqran who conveyed a verbal message from the Saudi King to the Syrian leader.

"The message tackles bilateral relations, latest regional developments and the importance of coordination and consultation between the two sides in the interest of the two countries' peoples and the Arab peoples in general," according to an official statement.

"Assad sent a reply message on latest regional events particularly after the Israeli aggression and the importance of Arab solidarity in the face of challenges confronting the Arab nations, particularly in Palestine," read the statement, carried by government-run Syrian Arab News Agency.

The Saudi King told his fellow Arab leaders in Kuwait last month that he was declaring an end to "the recent period of quarrels" and "opening the door of unity."

The pacifying language offered some relief from the tensions that have built up over the past years.

The last but not the least, Arab heads of states were divided on how to respond to Israel's 22-day aggression on the Palestinian territory — which it started on Dec. 27, and did face heavy criticism for their apparent inaction.

The monarch, however, addressed his most important words in the two-day Kuwait summit to Israel, warning Israeli leaders not to pass up the chance of peace that was offered to them by the 2002 Arab summit in Beirut because, as he put it, such offers may not last forever.

Assad, however, did not offer an olive branch to Israel, saying the initiative was "dead and should be buried."

Israel initially rejected the Arab peace plan, which offers Israel peace and normal relations with all Arab countries in return for withdrawal from all territory captured in the Middle East war of 1967, but in the past year has said it could be a starting point for discussion.

The Lebanese pro-Western parties, backed by the United States and Saudi Arabia, face a tough election battle in June against rivals supported by the Hezbollah militant group and its Syrian allies.