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Olmert: Assad is no peace partner now

TEL AVIV, Israel, Sept. 26 (UPI) -- Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has snubbed Syria's call for political negotiations, saying Syrian President Bashar Assad is no peace partner.

Speaking in an interview with the Family newspaper, to be published next week, Olmert stressed that Syria's Israeli-occupied Golan Heights "is an indivisible part of Israel" which he will not give up as long as he remains in power.

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The Israeli press, which quoted excerpts from the interview Tuesday, said Olmert told the newspaper published by orthodox Jews, "at this point I see no peace partner in Syria."

Olmert's comments came shortly after Assad called for renewing peace negotiations with Israel in an interview with Germany's Der Spiegel last week.

"I have no intention at all to be lured by public relations maneuvers undertaken by Bashar Assad," Olmert was quoted as saying.

"What Assad is actually saying is that 'I will continue to support Palestinian terrorism, I will keep on backing terrorism against Americans in Iraq and I will keep on arming Hezbollah, but I will make a signal to Israel and it will be ready'... That I don't like," Olmert said.

The Israeli prime minister told Yediot Ahronot earlier that he believes Syria is under strain due to the imminent release of the U.N. investigation report in the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, a case that should be referred to an international tribunal.

"That explains the wish of the Syrians to open up to Israel... But in fact they are continuing to shelter terrorists and support terrorist Palestinian organizations which are active against us in the Palestinian territories," Olmert said.

He said he sees no indication in Syria's behavior that would encourage Israel to make political steps toward peace.

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