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Israel’s mysterious air raid on Syria last month targeted a disused military building, Bashar Assad said.

The Syrian president made the claim Monday in a BBC interview, his first explicit comment about a Sept. 6 sortie the Israeli government refuses to discuss.

Assad said the incident demonstrated Israel’s “visceral antipathy toward peace” and rejected international speculation that a secret Syrian nuclear facility, perhaps supplied by North Korea, had been destroyed.

The Syrian president played down the prospect of a new war with Israel, saying he wanted new peace talks. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has made similar overtures recently.

But Assad was more circumspect when asked about the upcoming U.S.-sponsored Israeli-Palestinian peace conference, which several Arab leaders are expected to attend.

“If they don’t talk about the Syrian occupied territory, no, there’s no way for Syria to go there,” he said, referring to the bedrock demand by Damascus for a return of the Golan Heights from Israel. “It should be about comprehensive peace, and Syria is part of this comprehensive peace. Without that we shouldn’t go, we wouldn’t go.”

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