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(photo credit: AP [file])
The United States ought to revise its policy in the region if it wants the upcoming Mideast peace conference to succeed, the Syrian government newspaper Tishrin said Tuesday, stopping short of saying Syria would not attend.
The newspaper report - the first official response to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's call on Sunday for Damascus to participate in the conference - followed a Guardian report earlier Tuesday that said Syria planned to turn down the US invitation.
"What is the advantage of such a conference ... if those who have called for it are not contemplating to reconsider their negative policies in the region and define its supposed target beforehand?" Tishrin said.
Washington's aim in holding the conference, the paper speculated, was to have Syria and Israel normalize ties while retaining the status quo.
The newspaper said the Bush administration continued to view "our pending issues illogically and illegally and through an Israeli perspective" - a reference to the Golan Heights.
The London-based Guardian earlier quoted Syrian officials as saying Foreign Minister Walid Moallem was planning to turn down Rice's invitation because America and Israel were not serious enough about reaching a regional agreement.
Moallem will make the statement during his talks at the UN this week, unless he is promised that the conference will yield results rather than just talk, the report said.
"Syria attaches more importance to the content than the formalities," a senior official was quoted as saying. "We have no interest in going just to have our photos taken."
The official added that "the Americans want to freeze the Palestinian issue in order to finish whatever they want to finish in Iraq. They want to create headlines that they are moving forward on the Palestinian problem. The Israelis would like to impose their own view of the peace process."
On Sunday, Rice said at a press conference in New York that "it's only natural that we would hope that the participants would include the members of the Arab Follow-up Committee, because that is the committee that has been charged by the Arab League with following up with the international community on the Arab Peace Initiative."
Syria is a member of this committee, along with Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunisia, the Palestinians and Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa.
Israel has said it has no problem attending the conference even if Syria is invited.
Herb Keinon contributed to this report.