Thursday, October 07, 2004

Assad

Assad has a change of heart?

Syrian President Bashar Assad is offering to make peace with Israel and says he is ready to cooperate with the United States in stabilizing Iraq, a former senior State Department official said Wednesday.

"Something is going on in Syria and it is time for us to pay attention," said Martin Indyk, assistant secretary of state for the Near East and U.S. ambassador to Israel during the Clinton administration.

In a three-hour meeting with the Syrian president last month in Damascus, Indyk said he detected a "clear change" in Assad's views on a number of fronts.

On peacemaking, Assad offered to hold talks with Israel without preconditions, Indyk said, and had made several overtures to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that the latter rebuffed.

In the past, Indyk said, Syria had insisted that any peace talks should resume where they left off during the Clinton administration - with Israel offering to give up all of the Golan Heights, a strategic area Israel won in the 1967 Mideast war.

And, Indyk said, Assad had dropped a demand that Israel reach an agreement with the Palestinians before Israel could resume negotiations with Syria.

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