The fourth US senator to visit Syria this month arrived in Damascus, where he was expected to hold meetings with senior officials.

A US embassy official confirmed Arlen Specter’s arrival, but she could not say how long the Republican from Pennsylvania — who chairs the senate judiciary committee — would be staying.

Former presidential hopeful John Kerry and fellow senator Christopher Dodd, both members of the foreign relations committee, were in Damascus last week where they met Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

In an article Sunday in the Washington Post newspaper, Kerry said the only way for the United States to influence events in Syria, and perhaps in the broader Middle East, was to engage Damascus in talks.

Earlier this month, Senator Bill Nelson — who also sits on the foreign relations committee — travelled to Syria and met Assad.

US President George W. Bush has dismissed calls for a direct US dialogue with Syria, which Washington accuses of letting extremists into Iraq and undermining Lebanon’s fragile democracy.

Copyright © 2006 Agence France Presse

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