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Israeli and U.S. Officials Deny Report of Done Deal

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Israeli officials have denied a newspaper report that it had reached a secret, preliminary agreement with Syria calling for a gradual withdrawal from all of the Golan Heights.

The Prime Minister’s Office and Foreign Ministry issued statements Tuesday saying there was no truth to a report in the French weekly Tribune Juive that said Foreign Minister Shimon Peres had signed an agreement on a staged withdrawal from the Golan over the course of ten years.

The Jewish paper said Peres and four other Israeli ministers were in Paris on June 5 to sign the agreement.

The report added that according to the agreement, both countries would hold national referendums on any final peace deal, which would be annulled if it did not gain a majority of public support.

“I deny the whole thing,” said Behira Berdugo, Peres’ spokeswoman. “Peres was in Israel that day. No such thing was signed.”

In Washington, State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns also issued a denial, saying, “I have no information that would corroborate that particular report.”

Referring to talks between high-level military officials from Israel and Syria that are scheduled to convene June 27, Burns added, “In our view, this is the next step on the Syrian-Israeli track.”

There has so far been no reaction to the report from Syrian officials.

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