Foreign Minister George Papandreou met yesterday with President Bashar Assad and other members of the Syrian government for talks on how to combat international terrorism, the Middle East question and other issues. The Greek government had said last week that this was an effort to draw Syria into the coalition against terrorism and to show the interest of the European Union and Greece in reinvigorating ties with Damascus. Papandreou told the Syrians that the international community expects Syria to contribute fruitfully to the solving of the Middle East question, state television NET reported last night. He told Assad that his visit was a Greek initiative to explore the possibilities of what new opportunities may exist in this new political environment, the Agence France-Presse reported. I understand very well that a coalition is very difficult when there is so much tension around the Palestinian issue. The Athens News Agency said the Syrians had made clear that they would like at least a symbolic sign from the United States in order to join the international campaign against terrorism. Papandreou, who was to return to Athens yesterday, said that his talks had been especially useful and fruitful, according to the agency. He noted that Syria plays a very important role in the region and the Arab world and that the two sides had decided that this close cooperation could develop into a broader dialogue. Papandreou said that the crisis that broke out after the September 11 terrorist attacks on America could spur efforts to solve regional crises. Papandreou and Assad also discussed an initiative their fathers had proposed in 1995 for a UN-led international conference on terrorism, when Premier Andreas Papandreou visited Hafez al-Assad in Damascus. As the delegates were about to vote late on Saturday, Tsochadzopoulos was invited by outgoing Secretary-General Costas Skandalidis to clarify a proposal he had made for the hiring of 20,000 specialists by local authorities. This was one of the three proposals made by Tsochadzopoulos and accepted by the Congress.