Syria sets conditions for ME conference

AFP | By, Damascus
Oct 01, 2007 07:53 PM IST

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said his Govt will not attend a US-sponsored ME peace conference scheduled for Nov unless its concerns are addressed.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said his government will not attend a US-sponsored Middle East peace conference scheduled for November unless its concerns are addressed.

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HT Image

He told the BBC in an interview, excerpts of which were posted on Monday on the Internet, that this meant the conference would have to discuss the return of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

The president said Syria had yet to decide whether to attend the conference in the United States because it needed further clarification about what would be discussed.

"So far we didn't have the invitation and we didn't have any clarification about anything," he said.

"If they don't talk about the Syrian occupied territory, no, there's no way for Syria to go there.

"It should be about comprehensive peace, and Syria is part of this comprehensive peace. Without that, we shouldn't go, we wouldn't go," said the Syrian leader.

The conference has been called to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In his first public reaction to an Israeli air strike on northern Syria last month, the president said it showed Israel's "visceral antipathy towards peace".

The BBC quoted Assad as saying Syria reserved the right to respond to the attack, but he did not elaborate.

Syria demands the return of the entire Golan Heights which Israel seized in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed in 1981. Direct negotiations between the two countries broke down in January 2000.

It has come under international pressure over Lebanon, Iraq and the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Israel has not voiced any objection to the planned invitation of Damascus for the conference in November, insisting that Washington alone was responsible for who it invited.

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