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Groups praise U.S. engagement with Syria, Iran

U.S. agreement to participate in a multilateral conference with Syria and Iran is welcome and serves as an example to Israel, two dovish Jewish groups said. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced this week that she would participate in some of the regional roundtables on Iraq policy in coming months, breaking with a policy of avoiding contact with the two rogue regimes. “Israel Policy Forum calls on the administration to similarly encourage the Israeli government to engage in talks with Syrian officials if the government decides that such talks are in Israel’s interests,” IPF said in a statement. “We have seen persistent reports that Syria has made serious overtures to Israel, but that Israeli Prime Minister [Ehud] Olmert has reportedly rejected them at the behest of the Bush administration. The United States should not constrain Israel diplomatically.”�Americans for Peace Now issued a similar call. “When the Bush administration is politically engaging Syria, it has no business keeping Israel from taking up Syrian President Bashar Assad’s offers to resume peace talks without preconditions,” the group said. Israel has dismissed Assad’s offers as not serious, but some say Israel is acting under U.S. pressure.