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Peres Says Syria Rebuffed Indirect Effort Toward Peace Negotiations

From Times Wire Services

Prime Minister Shimon Peres said Tuesday that Israel had sought to begin peace discussions with Syria but was rebuffed by the Damascus authorities.

“We made an effort--not directly--to arrive at a dialogue with the Syrians,” Peres said in an interview with Israel radio, marking the nation’s Independence Day.

His comments followed a week of tension between Israel and Syria, heightened by press reports that the government of President Hafez Assad fears an Israeli retaliatory attack for its alleged involvement in an attempt to smuggle a bomb onto an Israeli jet in London.

Peres said Israel indirectly approached the Syrians about possible limited agreements on the Golan Heights, captured by Israel in the Six-Day War of 1967, and on Lebanon.

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The Syrians want to regain control over the strategic heights, which Israel formally annexed in 1981. However, Israeli nationalists have vowed never to return the territory to Syria and all Israeli politicians, of whatever militancy, recall that many Israeli lives were lost in Golan-based Syrian shelling of border settlements before the June, 1967, fighting.

Israel has also said that it tried to discuss prospects for comprehensive peace talks with Damascus. “Regarding comprehensive negotiations, we immediately received a negative response,” Peres remarked Tuesday.

“On negotiations to be limited regarding place and scope, there was initially a hesitation and afterward we also received a negative response from the Syrians,” he said.

The Israeli leader has pledged that he has no intention of attacking Syria and that there is no indication Syria plans to launch an attack against Israel.

Military sources said Monday that Syria had built tank emplacements close to the Israeli border in eastern Lebanon, but there were no signs that Syria planned to arm the fortifications or launch an immediate attack.

On Tuesday, two rockets fired from Lebanon slightly wounded three Israelis. The Katyusha rockets wounded a father and two of his children in the northern Galilee region, knocked out power lines and damaged cars, military sources and Israel radio reported.

Israel has said that it holds Syria responsible for the attacks from Lebanon.


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