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Syria down on peace

Syria’s vice president voiced pessimism on the chances of
new peace talks with Israel.”We are not optimistic,” Farouk Shara
told reporters in Damascus on Thursday. “The American president does not
want peace between Israel and Syria.”

The statement followed President George W. Bush’s indication this week while hosting
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Washington that the Bush administration does not intend to mediate in any new negotiations between
Israel and Syria. The remarks dismayed many in the Arab world who believe Israel must be prodded toward peace by its ally the United States.

Many Israeli political pundits say the Bush
administration does not want Israeli-Syrian peace talks because they could undermine American pressure on Damascus to be more helpful in the Iraq war.

In contrast to Shara’s statement, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moalled said
Thursday his country is “more than ready” for rapprochement with
the Jewish state. “If the Israelis decide to renew the negotiations,
they will find a willing partner,” he said.

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