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Lawmaker Says It Will Be Very Difficult to Bring Syria into the Middle East Peace Process

Sen. Arlen Specter (R. Pa.) stressed today that it will be “very, very difficult” to bring Syria into the Middle East peace process. “The Syrians really do not want to have a peace relationship with Israel,” he told some 100 United Jewish Appeal leaders attending the third annual Hineni national leadership meeting.

Specter, who recently visited Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Syria, said that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is taking a leadership role in the peace process and that King Hussein of Jordan would like to participate if the threat of terrorism can be controlled. He said the Saudis are not taking any part.

The United States has to take renewed leadership to try and bring about some “rationality” in the area, Specter said. But he noted it will be a “long-term process.”

Specter hosted a luncheon for the UJA leaders at a Senate office building at which 26 Senators made brief remarks. Many spoke of support for Israel and particularly of the Senate approval by a 96-0 vote last week of the bill creating a free trade area between the United States and Israel.

The House is expected to adopt a similar bill tomorrow and a conference committee will then meet to work out the differences between the Senate and House bills.

One of the Senators at the luncheon, John Danforth (R. Mo.), said the work of the UJA demonstrated the proper role religion has played in politics since Moses, not in seeking to impose the idea of one group on the government, but in working for justice and uplifting the least fortunate in the society.

Danforth is one of the leading Senators upholding the separation of church and state. But Sen. Donald Riegle (D. Mich.) told the UJA leaders that Jews and others should share his “alarm” about what he called the increasing attack on the separation. He said he was “very concerned” about the increasing intrusion of religious fundamentalism into politics.

The UJA leaders are meeting with U.S. and Israeli officials during the three-day Hineni meeting which ends with a banquet tomorrow night addressed by Israeli Ambassador Meir Rosenne.

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