The Saudi-US Joint Commission will hold its second session here tomorrow under the co-chairmanship of Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al Faisal and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

The meeting will discuss developments in the Middle East particularly the Syrian dossier in the wake of the recent UN Security Council resolution and the latest address made by Syrian President Bashar Al Assad.

Yesterday Rice used a conference on Middle East democracy and development in Bahrain to criticise political repression in Syria and call for the release of political prisoners there.

"We continue to support the Syrian people's aspirations for liberty, democracy, and justice under the rule of law," Rice said at the start of a 36-nation gathering.

It will also discuss the developments of the Palestinian cause following the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza as well as the situation in Iraq particularly as regards the Saudi proposal to hold a reconciliation conference on Iraq under the umbrella of the Arab League.

Saudi sources told Gulf News that the meeting would focus on the means of boosting bilateral relations between Riyadh and Washington in all political, economic and cultural areas and increasing the trade exchange between the two countries.

Fighting international terrorism will also be among the top issues to be discussed at the meeting.

Saudi Oil Minister Ali Ebrahim Al Nuaimi, Minister of Finance Dr Ebrahim Al Assaf and Minister of Trade and Industry Dr Hashim Bin Abdullah Al Yamani will attend the meeting from the Saudi side.

The setting up of the Saudi-US Commission was announced during the April summit in Crawford, Texas between Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz and President George W. Bush.

Since that summit, Saudi-US relations have witnessed great progress which has led to Saudi Arabia's accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

The two countries are also cooperating in fighting terrorism.

Saudi Arabia is the biggest US trade partner in the Middle East. Its exports to the US are estimated at about $20 billion a year and it imports 18 per cent of its needs from the US.