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    DAMASCUS, JANUARY 16, 2004. (RIA NOVOSTI CORRESPONDENT ALEXANDER KRASNOV). The delegation of the Federation Council (the upper house of the Russian parliament) completed its visit to Syria and returned to Moscow.

    The head of the delegation, coordinator of the Russian-Arab inter-parliamentary association, Ramazan Abdulatipov said in an interview with RIA Novosti that the visit was "useful and successful." The Russian delegation was received in Syria at the highest level. The parliamentarians met with the country's president, Bashar al-Asad, vice-president Abd al-Halim ibn Said Khaddam, deputy general secretary of the ruling Baath Arab Socialist party Abdullah al-Ahmar and speaker for the People's Assembly (parliament) Mahmoud al-Abrash.

    Talks were also held with some Syrian ministers and deputies of the Syrian parliament.

    Ramazan Abdulatipov pointed out that "during the meetings it was stressed that Russia and Syria maintain traditional relations of friendship and cooperation which should be further developed in all spheres." "The sides pointed to the similarity or coincidence of viewpoints on such topical problems as the settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict in compliance with the UN Security Council resolutions, the situation in Iraq and the way to restore the country, and termination of the Israeli occupation of the Arab territories," Abdulatipov said.

    At the same time Abdulatipov pointed that the level of economic relations between the two countries "does not correspond to their potential" and stressed the "need to search for ways to overcome difficulties in this sphere." The first steps in this direction have already been made during the visit of the delegation. A large group of Russian businessmen, who accompanied the parliamentarians, met with chairman of the Syrian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and discussed with him the specific issues of the intensification of economic cooperation.

    A protocol on cooperation between the Russian-Arab inter-parliamentary association and the Damascus-based Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union (AIU) was signed during the visit.

    AIU president Noureddin Boshkoj told journalists that the signing of this document opens wide opportunities for the development of cooperation between the parliamentarians of Russia and all Arab countries.

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