Kerry says Syrian president leaning toward West

A prominent US senator said Wednesday that Syrian President Basher Assad told him last month in Damascus that Syria is prepared to resume peace negotiations with Israel and embrace a 2000 Arab initiative offering peace in exchange for territory captured during the Six-Day-War. "Syria would like direct American participation in these peace talks," said Sen. John Kerry, a Democrat and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Reversing the Bush administration's dismissive stance on Syria, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced Tuesday during a visit to Israel she would send two senior officials to Damascus this week.