Syria is interested in a peace agreement with Israel but is waiting for the next US administration in order to initiate talks, a new intelligence assessment by the Foreign Ministry states. The yearly assessment was presented to the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday by Nimrod Barkan, director of the ministry's Center for Policy Research. According to the report, the Syrians do not believe that negotiations will be able to advance as long as US President George W. Bush is in office, and therefore prefer to wait until the end of his term, hoping that the next administration will be willing to renew talks with Damascus and will give its blessing to Syrian-Israeli negotiations. "Syria is the odd one out among Israel's enemies, in that it is a secular nation which acknowledges Israel and eyes the West. It is aware of its weakness in the face of Israel and of future financial problems, and it therefore wishes to reach a settlement," Barkan said. Barkan stated that Israel had increased its deterrent capabilities against Hizbullah and Syria in 2007. However, he added, both Syria and Hizbullah were continuing to build up their power "and so we must closely follow developments." Barkan further stated that the US had made two attempts in 2007 to "open a door for Syria," but that these were unsuccessful as Syria did not fulfill Washington's demands that it reduce its influence in Lebanon. On the Iranian front, the ministry's assessment was that the nation was facing serious financial problems, adding that some cracks had begun to appear in the regime, although it was not clear how deep they ran.