The presidents of Syria and Iraq have signed an agreement on a 'joint political leadership'.?
SV INTERIOR: Iraqi President Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr (centre) seated, talking PAN TO Syrian President Hafez al-Assad
GV: conference room with delegates seated (2 shots)
GV: Iraqi and Syrian presidents walk into room, seat themselves at table for signing.
SV: Presidents sign document, rise and shake hands, and exchange copies
Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
Background: The presidents of Syria and Iraq have signed an agreement on a 'joint political leadership'. The signing came on Tuesday (19 June) at the end of four days of talks in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad. But Reuters said the agreement fell short of the two leaders' expectation.
SYNOPSIS: President Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr, seated here in the centre, signed for Iraq, and President Hafez al-Assad for Syria.
This signing stemmed from an agreement last October to end more than ten years of hostility between these neighbouring Arab nations. They decided then to merge into a single state with a population of some twenty million, and armed forces almost half a million strong.
The joint political leadership, chaired by the two presidents, will replace the 'higher political committee' set up last October to co-ordinate moves for the merger.
Reuters quoted Syrian diplomats as saying afterwards that the Baghdad talks seemed to have achieved little more than a change of name for the co-ordinating body. The agency also quoted President al-Bakr as being disappointed with the steps towards unity that they had achieved. Apart from Egypt, Syria and Iraq are the largest military powers of the Arab world. Their full union could pose a threat to Israel, but Reuters said few diplomats in the Middle East believe the union will happen.