Assad to give Blair warning on Iraq
[Daily Express, UK, 15 Dec}:
Syrian president Bashar Assad is expected to warn Tony Blair against war with Iraq after arriving in Britain.
Mr Assad will hold talks with the Prime Minister in what is the first official visit to Britain by a Syrian leader.
Mr Blair received an embarrassing dressing down over the Afghan conflict from the Syrian leader when he made a ground-breaking visit to the capital Damascus last year.
A similar joint press conference between Mr Blair and Mr Assad is planned at No 10 before the Syrian president is given an audience with the Queen.
Speaking ahead of the visit, British officials pointedly said they would deliver "home truths ... in private rather than public".
But just days before his arrival, the Syrian President publicly warned war with Saddam Hussein would create "fertile soil for terrorism" across the Middle East.
While Syria backed the US-UK resolution on Iraqi disarmament adopted by the United Nations, the Arab country sees it as a method of avoiding US strikes on Iraq.
"The consequences (of war on Iraq) are not going to be contained within Iraq. The entire region will enter into the unknown," Mr Assad said in an interview with The Times.
"We are a better judge of this because we live in the region. I think the bigger problem is that any country should interfere in the internal affairs of another country."
Britain is keen for Syria to rein in the extremist pro-Palestinian groups operating in Damascus, a situation that has earned it a place on the US terror list.