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Powell arrives in Syria for talks

U.S. secretary of state hopes for 'full and candid' conversation

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell meets with Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio in Madrid. He traveled Friday to Damascus, Syria.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell meets with Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio in Madrid. He traveled Friday to Damascus, Syria.

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DAMASCUS, Syria (CNN) -- U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell arrived in Damascus on Friday for talks with President Bashar Assad of Syria, which the United States has called a "rogue state."

Powell will outline what the U.S. government calls the "changed strategic situation" in the Middle East since Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was removed from power.

En route to Syria, Powell stopped off in Tirana, Albania, and signed the Adriatic Charter of Partnership with the foreign ministers of Albania, Macedonia and Croatia. The move underscores U.S. support for the three countries' efforts toward eventual integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions, especially their NATO aspirations.

"When pledging America's support for further expansion of NATO," Powell said, "President Bush made it clear that the Europe of his vision does not end at the ... Danube [River], but embraces all the peoples of the continent, including those of southeastern Europe."

From Tirana, the secretary flew to Damascus, which has been under U.S. pressure since the fall of the regime in Baghdad. Officials said Powell hopes to have a "full and candid" conversation with Assad and other Syrian leaders.

President Bush has accused Syria of harboring Saddam's henchmen and developing weapons of mass destruction.

Powell has threatened sanctions against the country but also has said there are no immediate plans to expand the war in Iraq to Syria. Syria denies the allegations from Washington.

In Madrid, Spain, Powell met Thursday with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar -- one of Bush's key allies in the coalition against Iraq -- to talk about the future of the Mideast after Saddam. (Powell in Spain)

"I think what we have seen over the last several weeks makes it absolutely clear that President Aznar was right," Powell said after a meeting with Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio.

"We have removed a dictator, and with each passing day we can see what that dictatorship had done to the Iraqi people and to the infrastructure of the Iraqi nation."

Palacio said the toppling of Saddam and the distribution to Palestinian and Israeli leaders of the U.S.-backed "road map" to peace marked this time as "a moment of hope."

"To all good men and women of the world, we are living through a time of enormous hope and satisfaction after a long period of skepticism and at the end of it all great doubt in the peace process," she said.

Powell is scheduled to end his jaunt in Beirut, Lebanon.

-- CNN Madrid bureau chief Al Goodman contributed to this report.

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