Syrian president rules out direct talks with Israeli PM

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New Delhi, Jun 19 (UNI) Syrian President Bashar al-Assad today ruled out direct negotiations with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on the sidelines of a conference in Paris next month, saying India, with its ''credibility'' and good relations with Israel and the US, could play a role for peace in West Asia.

The Syrian President and the Israeli Prime Minister will be in Paris on July 13 as guests of French President Nicolas Sarkozy at the launch of a new Mediterranean Union. Both countries have launched indirect peace talks under Turkey's mediation.

''This is not like drinking tea. The meeting will be meaningless without technocrats, who are the experts, laying the foundation. Only sending signals with no real result is meaningless,'' the Syrian leader said at a press conference here today.

President Assad, who is currently on a four-day State visit to India, the first by a Syrian President in 30 years, held discussions with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh yesterday.

The Syrian leader's comments came amid reports from Paris quoting an aide to President Sarkozy that Prime Minister Olmert and President Bashar al-Assad could meet on the sidelines of a summit in Paris next month.

Meanwhile, Turkey has said that Syria and Israel would hold a fresh round of indirect peace talks in July. Two rounds of such talks under Turkey's mediation have been held so far.

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