Syria wants Golan on agenda at Middle East talks

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TEHRAN, Nov 20 (Reuters) Syria reiterated today it would only attend a US-hosted West Asia peace conference next week if the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights are on the agenda, an Iranian news agency reported.

''With the condition that the issue of Golan Heights is put on the agenda of the meeting, Syria will take part in it,'' Iran's official news agency IRNA quoted visiting Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem as telling his Iranian counterpart.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad last month also said his country would not take part in the conference if the Golan Heights were not discussed there. A US State Department spokesman at the time declined direct comment on Assad's views.

The United States has not yet announced who will be invited to the Nov 26-27 conference in Annapolis, Maryland, which will focus on reviving talks on Palestinian statehood.

But US officials have said they plan to include key Arab states, including Syria and Saudi Arabia, which do not have diplomatic relations with Israel.

Israel and Syria last held peace talks in 2000 but failed to reach an agreement on the future of the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau which Israel captured from Syria in 1967.

Tensions between the two countries rose after an Israeli air raid on Syrian territory in September which analysts speculated may have destroyed a nascent Syria nuclear reactor. Syria denied having such a facility.

REUTERS PD RK1615

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