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Israel denies receiving message from Syria

TEL AVIV, Israel, Dec. 19 (UPI) -- A prominent Arab TV channel said Tuesday that Syrian President Bashar Assad has sent Israel a message offering peace talks.

However, the Israeli prime minister's office denied having received such a letter.

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According to the Dubai-based al-Arabiya TV, Assad offered peace talks without any prior conditions.

In recent months Syrian leaders have called for such talks and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Damascus should first stop harboring terrorists. Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, which Israel considers as terrorists, have their headquarters in the Syrian capital.

According to al-Arabiya, a Saudi-owned news channel, Assad offered to restrain Hamas and prevent arms transfers from Iran via Syria to Lebanon's Hezbollah organization. A German intermediary relayed the offer, it added.

Prime Minister Olmert's office said it received no such message.

"Contrary to various reports, the prime minister has received no Syrian letter, neither from German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier nor from anyone else," it said.

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