Syrian President Hafez Assad visited Iraq for the first time in five years yesterday, temporarily burying the two Arab neighbors' bitter political rift to unite in opposition to the Camp David acords.
Assad arrived to a 21-gun salute, bouquets of flowers and a warm embrace from Iraqi President Ahmed Hassan Bakr and later BEGAN TALKS WITH Bakr and other senior officials that could provide a major boost for Arab resistance to Israeli Egyptian peace moves.
Assad's visit raised unexpected prospects for enlisting Iraq's oil health and 180,000-man army in Arab efforts to frustrate the policies of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.
Iraqi leaders have refused to join a five-member anti-Egyptian alliance on the ground that the group's opposition to the peace moves was too moderate.
Informed sources said a principal topic of Assad's talks will be an Iraqi offer to send troops to reinforce the Syrian Army on the Golan Heights overlooking northern Israel.
Syria has not yet accepted the proposal, made three weeks ago, but the sources said a tacit agreement may be reached during Assad's talks with President bakr:
They said the two sides were also expected to discuss shelving their political differences with a view to drawing up a new strategy for countering the results of the Camp David mettings last month.
The sources said the talks will have a crucial bearing on the outcome of a full-scale Arab summit due to he held in Baghdad next week with the same aim.
Assad's visit, a significant event in the shifting alliances of the Arab world, was preceded by the announcement Sunday of the reopening of borders, which had been closed for about a year, and the resumption of air traffic.
The trip, termed "a working visit" and expected to last two days, will be followed by another visit by Assad to Baghdad for the Arab summit meeting scheduled to begin Nov. 2.
Until recently, Syria and Iraq were set against one another in a relentless propaganda war and blamed each other for subversive activity and political assassinations.
The Syria-Iraq reconciliation, whether lasting or not, was seen by Arab analysts as a measure of the importance both attach to closing Arab ranks in order to counter U.S.-backed Middle East peace moves since the Camp David summit.