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Olmert wants to ‘sit’ with Assad

Ehud Olmert made his strongest call yet for Syria to resume peace talks with Israel.

Asked in an interview with Al-Arabiya television Monday about recent peace overtures by Syrian President Bashar Assad, the Israeli prime minister said: “I am willing to sit with him if he is willing to sit with me. We’ll talk about peace.”

Both Jerusalem and Damascus have signaled since last year’s Lebanon war that they want rapprochement, but personal remarks such as those made by Olmert on Monday have been rare.

Olmert noted in the interview that “the Americans don’t want to sit with” Assad, given Syria’s alleged support for the Iraqi insurgency. In offering talks with the Syrian leader, Olmert appeared to be suggesting that Israel is willing to do so without Washington’s blessing.

Syria has conditioned resuming peace talks on the return by Israel of the Golan Heights. Israel has rejected such preconditions and urged Assad to show good faith by first ending Syria’s sponsorship of Lebanese Hezbollah and Palestinian terrorist groups.

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