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Israeli paper says PM Olmert offered land-for-peace deal to Syria

RIA Novosti

08/06/2007 13:08 TEL AVIV, June 8 (RIA Novosti) - An Israeli newspaper said Friday Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered Syria a land-for-peace deal proposing the return of a plateau captured in the 1967 war if Damascus dropped its support for Lebanese and Palestinian radicals, as well as Iran.

Citing an unnamed source in Jerusalem, the daily Yedioth Ahronoth said that in proposals sent to Syrian President Bashar Assad through German and Turkish envoys, Olmert pledged to return the Golan Heights, captured from Syria during the Six-Day War. In exchange, Israel wants commitments from Syria that it will cease supporting Iran, the Lebanese Islamist movement Hezbollah and Palestinian radical groups, the paper reported.

The Assad regime backed Hezbollah militants in their war with Israel last summer, and it is believed to be routinely financing terrorist activities against the Jewish state by the Palestinian group Hamas. It is also closely allied with Iran, a country suspected of secretly developing a nuclear weapon and seen by Israel as a major potential threat to its national security.

Assad has not given any response yet to Olmert's peace initiatives, earlier approved by U.S. President George W. Bush, Yedioth said.

Apparently prompted by Israeli intelligence warnings of a Syrian military buildup, Olmert's peace proposal came just days after Israel and the Arab World commemorated the Six-Day War's 40th anniversary.

The blitz war, which began June 5, 1967, led to the Jewish state seizing vast territories from Syria, Egypt and Jordan, including East Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula.

Egypt was able to recover Sinai in 1982, but the other captured territories remain under Israel's control to this day.

On Wednesday, Olmert's office said the prime minister sent a message to Syria through undisclosed diplomatic channels that the Jewish state has no intention of attacking it. The move was made in an apparent attempt to prevent Damascus from misinterpreting the Israeli military's current exercise in the area as war preparations.

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