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PM serious about talks with Syria: Israeli minister
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08:09, July 11, 2007

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Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's call for fresh peace talks with Syria in an interview with Al-Arabiya television was genuine and real, Public Security Minister Avi Dichter was quoted by local media as saying on Tuesday.

Talking to Dubai-based Al-Arabiya television, Olmert urged Syrian President Bashar Assad to begin direct peace negotiations with Israel, and advised him not to wait for American mediation.

"Bashar al-Assad, you know that I am ready for direct talks with you," Olmert said to Syrian president via the interview with Al-Arabiya. "I will be happy if I could make peace with Syria. I do not want to wage war against Syria," he added.

However, Dichter was not optimistic that Assad would agree to renew the talks, especially because he is allied with Iran, the report said.

"Bashar Assad apparently has other plans than making peace with Israel," Dichter told Israel's Army Radio. "And now we will listen and wait," he said.

Negotiations between Syria and Israel collapsed in 2000 without resolving the issue of the Golan Heights, captured by Israel in the 1967 war. Israel annexed the Golan in 1981, but the move was unrecognized by the international community.

Assad has repeatedly expressed interest in resuming talks with Israel through a third party recently, while Israel demanded that Syria stop supporting armed Palestinian groups or Hezbollah.

Some Israeli intelligence officials have warned that Damascus is preparing for a conflict.

Source: Xinhua

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