Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq Shara would like to see Washington renew its efforts to relaunch peace negotiations between his country and Israel, he said in an interview with the CNN television network.
He said that the US is "not really" mediating at the moment, but we hope that they will be able to resume their efforts, as soon as they are ready and as soon as the Israelis are ready, because Syria is ready - the transition has been very smooth."
Asked about the country's new leader, he said: "I think Doctor Bashar is going to be a great leader. This is my conviction, my personal conviction."
He said he did not want to talk about the internal affairs of Israel, concerning the recent troubles for the coalition government of Prime Minister Ehud Barak, but said he hoped "that any change in Israel will be directed towards achieving peace with the Arabs and not the reverse."
The Syrian foreign minister also commented on the presence of more than 30,000 of his country's troops in Lebanon, making a distinction between their being there by invitation and Israeli troops having gone in with an invasion.
"There is a lot of difference between (when) you are invading a country and you are invited to visit and help that country and we are still helping that country. When the help is no longer needed, we would be joyful to put an end to this sacrifice that we are making in Lebanon."
At a news conference earlier in the day with visiting UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, Shara said Syria is ready to resume peace negotiations with Israel "at any moment", so long as Israel accepts it must make a complete withdrawal from the Golan Heights.
Shara said Annan had "heard from Doctor Bashar that Syria is ready at any moment, so long as Israel is ready, to restart peace negotiations on the basis of a withdrawal back to the line of June 4, 1967," adding that there can be no compromise on the withdrawal -- NICOSIA (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )