Hoenlein confirms Syria trip, denies it was for PM

Conference of Presidents head reportedly held lengthy talks with Assad, Channel 10 News says.

January 3, 2011 22:52
Syrian President Bashar Assad

bashar assad 311. (photo credit: AP)


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Senior US Jewish leader Malcolm Hoenlein confirmed on Monday that he recently visited Damascus, but denied that he had been dispatched on behalf of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

The executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations said he had visited the Syrian capital about 10 days ago, at the invitation of the Syrians, to pursue a humanitarian agenda.

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“I was not sent by the prime minister,” he told The Jerusalem Post by telephone from New York.

Officials insisting on anonymity said Hoenlein had a lengthy meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad. They noted that during the visit, Assad had given approval for the restoration of Jewish synagogues and cemeteries, in an apparent goodwill gesture to the local Syrian community.

A Channel 10 News report on Monday evening had suggested Hoenlein visited Damascus as Netanyahu’s envoy, with personal messages for the president from the prime minister. Channel 10 claimed he also met Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem.

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