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Syrians seek seat at Mideast peace table

As Damascus works towards regaining the Golan Heights, Israelis prepare for internal political battles over the contested border area.

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Syria, branded by the US as a supporter of terrorism and accused of adding to Iraq's strife, hopes to participate in an Arab-Israeli peace conference that President George Bush wants to sponsor before the end of the year. If Syria participates in peace talks, it plans to push its desire to regain the Golan Heights – seized by Israel in the 1967 war – which has sparked serious debates among Israeli officials.

As the prospect of peace talks loom, Syria is also warning that an "arms race" could be ignited by the Bush administration's plan to beef up its military support to Sunni Muslim-ruled Gulf States, Egypt and Israel, Reuters reports.

"Syria will support and participate in any international conference for peace. The objectives, participants and grounds for such an initiative must be made clear," [Syrian Foreign Minister Walid] al-Moualem said after meeting Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos in the Syrian capital.
"Bush has cast himself as a peace maker. He has to gain the trust of all parties and not start a dangerous arms race in the region," Moualem said.

The Jerusalem Post, a conservative Israeli newspaper, reports that Syria has been seeking to engage Israel directly over the Golan Heights, though its deputy foreign minister told Al Jazeera that its efforts are being consistently rebuked, saying: "All of Syria's peace efforts have thus far been snubbed by Israel."

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