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The message of World Water Day, celebrated here and around the globe last week, is more pressing than ever in the northern regions of the Syrian Arab Republic, which have received exceptionally low levels of rainfall in recent years.

“In the past few years, the growing population, and the fact that Syria has faced a severe lack of rain, has combined with increased economic activity and agriculture,” said Minister of Housing and Construction Omar Ghalawanji. “This has resulted in the challenge of water scarcity – something we need to address collectively.”

Water-quality challenges


Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah arrived in Syria for a two-day visit aimed at mending ties between the two rival nations.

King Abdullah was greeted at the Damascus airport Wednesday by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The two headed straight to the presidential palace for talks on regional issues.

The visit is the first by a Saudi ruler since the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Syria has been widely blamed for the death. However, officials in Damascus have denied any responsibility.