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    DAMASCUS, January 12, 2004. /RIA Novosti correspondent Alexander Krasnov/. An official delegation of the Russian Federation Council led by Ramazan Abdulatipov, the head of the Russian-Arab Inter-parliamentary Union, has arrived in Damascus on Monday.

    "Our goal is to boost Russian-Syrian contacts in all spheres," Ramazan Abdulatipov told RIA Novosti.

    "We consider it necessary to reinforce Russia's presence in the Middle East, in particular, in Syria. We hope to discuss the existing problems and to outline prospects for cooperation at the parliamentary level," he noted.

    The Russian delegation is expected to meet with Syrian President Bashar al-Asad and several high-ranking officials in Damascus.

    A protocol on cooperation with the Arab Inter-parliamentary Union with the headquarters in Damascus is to be signed during the visit.

    A large group of Russian businessmen has also arrived in the Syrian capital.

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