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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 December 2006, 13:51 GMT
Israel rejects Iraq study ideas
Israeli troops on patrol in Hebron in the West Bank
Arabs say the injustice of Israel's occupation fuels wider unrest
Israel has rejected claims by a team of elder US statesmen that the Iraq crisis cannot be resolved unless the US also tackles the Arab-Israeli conflict.

PM Ehud Olmert, reacting to the Iraq Study Group (ISG) report, said he had a "different view" and would not talk to Syria as the report recommends.

He said conditions were not right for a resumption of negotiations, effectively suspended in 2000.

But he said Israel is trying to restart Palestinian talks "with all our might".

Israel and Syria participated in on-off peace talks between 1991 and 2000, focusing mainly on the fate of the Golan Heights, which Israel captured in the 1967 war.

I don't think there is a Syrian desire for war. That doesn't mean conditions are ripe for us to negotiate with them
Ehud Olmert

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has periodically issued calls for a resumption of talks, the latest being earlier this year.

Mr Olmert said Syria first would need to break ties with Israel's arch-foe Iran, and with anti-Israeli militant groups in Lebanon and the occupied territories.

"I don't think there is a Syrian desire for war with us. We certainly don't have a desire to fight with them. That doesn't mean conditions ripe for us to negotiate with them," Mr Olmert told an annual gathering of Israeli journalists in Tel Aviv.

Policy priority

James Baker and Lee Hamilon's bipartisan ISG report says: "The US will not be able to achieve its goals in the Middle East unless the US deals directly with the Arab-Israeli conflict."

It recommends directly involving Israel, Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinians in talks at the earliest opportunity.

The BBC's Matthew Price in Jerusalem says it is no surprise that the Israeli prime minister disagreed with the ISG assessment.

Israel knows President George W Bush's foreign policy priority is Iraq and it does not want its greatest ally to start seeing it as part of the problem, he adds.

Correspondents say many Arabs see the Israeli occupation of Palestinian and Syrian territory, and the injustice experienced by those living under occupation, as a major cause of unrest throughout the region.

Although he rebuffed Syrian overtures, Mr Olmert said Israel was keen to restart talks with the Palestinians and would work "with all our might" to make them happen.

Israel has set a series of conditions on the Palestinian Authority before they can take place.

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