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Syria invites Obama to Damascus

First came word that the United States would be sending an ambassador back to Damascus, and now this:

Syria's leader sent a July 4 message full of praise to President Barack Obama on Friday and invited him to visit Syria -- the latest signs Damascus is hedging its bets in Mideast politics, warming up to its rival the United States at a time when its longtime ally Iran is in turmoil. [...]

Assad sent a telegram to Obama on the occasion of the July 4 Independence Day holiday, saying, "The values that were adopted by President Obama during his election campaign and after he was elected president are values that the world needs today."

"It is very important to adopt the principle of dialogue in relations with countries based on respect and mutual interest," Assad said in the telegram, which was carried by state-run news agency SANA.

In an interview with Britain's Sky News, Assad invited Obama to visit Damascus to discuss Mideast peace.

''We would like to welcome him in Syria, definitely. I am very clear about this,'' Assad said in English. Asked whether such a visit could take place soon, Assad said: ''That depends on him.''

He added with a smile, ''I will ask you to convey the invitation to him.'' 

I'll be interested to see if Obama takes up Assad's offer. No U.S. president has been to Syria since 1994, when Bill Clinton visited Damascus.

Historically, the Assads have sometimes seemed queasy about their alliance with the Iranian regime. So, it's not too surprising that, with Tehran in political turmoil and lashing out at foreigners, Syria is lining up a potential Plan B.

Passport

Fire up the grill!

A group of chefs attempt to beat the world record in barbecuing steaks in the southern German town of Bubach-Calmesweiler on August 9, 2008. The chefs grilled 1235 steaks on the 15 square metre large grill and made their way in to the Guinness book of records.

Passport is taking a long weekend so there'll be no blogging tomorrow. See you all on Monday. Happy Fourth of July.

TORSTEN SILZ/AFP/Getty Images