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France’s president is trying to arrange a meeting between Ehud Olmert and Bashar Assad in Paris.

The Israeli and Syrian leaders are to attend a July 13 conference of European and Mediterranean countries in the French capital, staying on for Bastille Day on July 14.

Diplomatic sources said Monday that French President Nicolas Sarkozy wants to host a private meeting between the Israeli prime minister and Syrian president amid the events, which would build on the indirect talks their envoys have been holding in Turkey.

Syria has yet to comment on the French initiative, but Israel appears willing.

According to Jerusalem sources, an Olmert-Abbas meeting on the sidelines of the Paris conference is among proposals that Israel’s envoys plan to raise during the current round of Turkish-mediated talks.

France’s Jewish umbrella group CRIF said it “deplored” its country’s invitation to Assad.

“France invited, in effect, to its national holiday and to this celebration of human rights, the president of Syria, who permanently ridicules them,” the CRIF organization said in a statement released Monday. “Damascus supports and harbors terrorist organizations, conducts political assassinations in Lebanon and elsewhere, and prides itself on its alliance with Iran, which aims to acquire nuclear arms in order to destroy Israel and destabilize its neighbors,” the statement said.

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