STATE-NEWSRICHMOND, Va. (AP) – The official Syrian news agency says a conservative Virginia state senator is touring the war-torn country and meeting with officials from Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government. Loudoun County Republican Sen. Dick Black arrived in Syria on Tuesday for a three-day visit. President Barack Obama and other U.S. officials have repeatedly said Assad has lost his legitimacy to rule the country, but Black has praised Assad, saying he has protected Christians in Syria and fought against terrorist groups. The Syrian Arab News Agency erroneously reported that Black is a U.S. senator. Black is a state representative who has no role in official U.S. foreign policy. The outspoken socially conservative senator sent a letter praising Assad in 2014 that was posted on the Syrian president’s Facebook page.