Syria would be welcome at peace talks, says Olmert

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BEN GURION AIRPORT, Israel, Nov 25 (Reuters) Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said today he would welcome the participation of Syria at Middle East talks in the United States next week.

Speaking on board his plane as he was about to leave for Washington, Olmert said Israel would ''view positively'' Syria's participation in the conference, due to take place in Annapolis, Maryland, on Tuesday.

''We have said constantly that we are interested in Syria participating,'' Olmert said.

Syria has so far balked at giving a definitive answer as to whether it will attend the one-day summit on Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking.

Asked if he believed the United States had promised Syria something in exchange for its possible participation, Olmert replied: ''I don't think so.'' Syria wants clarification on the conference's agenda before deciding whether to attend.

It has said it wants to discuss the return of the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau overlooking northern Israel which was captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East War.

Arab League ministers agreed in Cairo on Friday to attend the conference in the hope of promoting the creation of a Palestinian state and pushing for Israel to return the Golan Heights to Syria as part of a regional peace process.

''I hope Annapolis will lead to the launching of serious negotiations on all the core issues that will result in a solution of two states for two peoples,'' Olmert said.

Reuters TB VP0702

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