No breakthroughs as Manley visits Syria, Iran

Foreign Minister Manley in Iran on first of

Foreign Affairs Minister John Manley has asked Syrian authorities to control the activities of the radical Palestinian groups it currently shelters.

He arrived in Syria late Sunday night as part of a five-day visit to the Middle East.

Manley wasn't concerned that his earlier visit to Iran produced no major breakthroughs, focusing rather on the longer-term goal of trying to persuade the Iranians to give up their support for international terrorism.

Manley was the latest in a series of Western foreign ministers to go to Iran, hoping to get the government there on side in the war against terrorism.

Despite the apparent lack of progress in the talks with Iran's Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazzi and President Mohammad Khatami, Manley said the talks themselves are important.

Iran's relations with the West have thawed recently, as it has brought in some democratic reforms.

"We've got to include them in discussions," Manley said. "Particularly while they are indicating their rejection of the actions of Sept. 11."

Iran has condemned the terrorist attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center and damaged the Pentagon. But it has also condemned the bombing campaign over Afghanistan.

"The strategy the U.S. has chosen would not benefit them in the fight against terrorism," said Kharazzi. "It could even bring sympathy and support for the terrorists."

Manley is the first Canadian foreign minister to visit Iran since Joe Clark a decade ago. He said he brought a request from Ottawa for Iran to work toward getting Palestinian groups to stop their violence. The message was not well received.

"If you are looking for any solution to this issue, the rights of Palestinians should be met," said Kharazzi at a news conference. "Refugees must be able to return home.

"Palestinians are resisting because their rights are not being met."

Manley continues his five-day swing through the Middle East with visits planned for Lebanon, Israel and Gaza.