Iraqi PM calls for reforms in Syria

BAGHDAD - Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Tuesday called for Damascus to enact reforms that would help stabilise Syria, where 15 people died in the latest crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.
Maliki's remarks, which did not contain specific proposals, came as Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem visited Baghdad, where the two politicians pledged to boost trade and economic ties.
"Prime Minister Maliki expressed Iraq's desire for a stable Syria, and for the implementation of reforms that could help to achieve security and stability," a statement from Maliki's office said.
It added that Maliki pressed for stronger economic and commercial ties, which Muallem also emphasised, but did not give further details.
A joint news conference between Muallem and Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari scheduled for Tuesday afternoon was cancelled, an AFP reporter said.
The United Nations on Monday condemned the "shocking" brutality of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, as activists said at least 15 people were killed in a crackdown.
More than 1,000 people have been killed and 10,000 arrested since the revolt began, human rights groups say. Syrian authorities say 143 soldiers, security forces and police have been killed.
Foreign journalists are barred from travelling inside Syria, making it difficult to report on the unrest or to verify witness accounts.
The government insists the unrest is the work of "armed terrorist gangs" backed by Islamists and foreign agitators.