Assad reiterates peace hopes

Syrian President Bashar Assad reiterated his hope for Israeli-Arab peace.

In his first public remarks since Israeli warplanes allegedly raided northern Syria on Sept. 6, Assad on Wednesday discussed his peace “vision” with visiting British parliamentarians.

“The president reiterated Syria’s firm position toward the peace process and the necessity for the involved parties to be serious with regard to the aspired peace, stressing that the peace process cannot be invested for attaining aims other than peace,” the official Syrian news agency SANA reported.

There was no mention of the alleged sortie, on which Israel has not commented but which some U.S. officials said may have targeted a strategic military installation in Syria. Damascus earlier said it reserves the right to retaliate against Israel for the violation of its sovereignty.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has also made recent overtures toward Assad, suggesting that the sides want to move ahead to some sort of reconciliation or at least a lowering of tensions.

Assad’s remarks appeared to allude to an upcoming Israeli-Palestinian peace conference under U.S. auspices that several major Arab powers are expected to attend. Asked Wednesday whether Syria might be on the roster of participants, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said it was too early to tell as no invitations have been sent.

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