PM: US not trying to stop Syria talks

Olmert reiterates Israel won't permit nuclear Iran, is "unhappy" over Syria, Iran, Hizbullah alliance.

Olmert big head 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Olmert big head 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Israel will not make peace with Syria at the expense of Lebanon, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has indicated. In an interview with Newsweek and The Washington Post,, the prime minister said Israel was examining the possibility of peace with Damascus, even though Jerusalem was concerned over the Syrian role in the region. "We are very unhappy with the continued intensive involvement of Syria in the affairs of Lebanon and the lack of a democratic process in electing a new president in Lebanon. We are also unhappy with the continued links between Iran, Syria, Hizbullah and Hamas," he said. Olmert said Israel was aware of US interests in the region, including in Lebanon. "I know what our expectations are. I know what the Americans' expectations are. I'm not going to do anything which [is in contradiction] to what my understanding of [what] the fundamental interests of the United States are in this part of the world." Olmert denied that peace between Israel and Syria would be detrimental to Lebanon. "This is an attempt to achieve peace between Israel and Syria. And at the same time, to also make sure that the interests of free, democratic Lebanon are well protected. What the ingredients of peace [are] is something that will have to be discussed." The prime minister rejected reports that US President George W. Bush was blocking peace talks between Israel and Syria. "This is not true. I never heard from my friend George W. Bush any warning or any request not to negotiate with the Syrians. I think that if the Syrians will handle the negotiations with us in an appropriate manner, they will be surprised to see how these negotiations can improve their status with America. My personal view is that no one can be of better help to this process than President Bush. "Any new president in America, if confronted with this issue, will have to wait two years at least until he learns enough and finds the appropriate time to devote to this, while Bush knows, Bush is familiar and Bush understands," Olmert said. "Therefore, if one is interested in a [Syrian-Israeli] process that ultimately leads to a public endorsement by the United States of America, then he has to hurry up. I believe, for reasons that I don't want to go into, that for Syria, the road to Washington must cross Jerusalem. I know what I'm talking about." Olmert reiterated that Israel would not permit a nuclear Iran. "Yes, Israel will not tolerate a nuclear weapon in the hands of people who say openly, explicitly and publicly that they want to wipe Israel off the map. Why should we?" he said. At the same time he expressed the hope that international efforts, spearheaded by the US, the EU and Russia, aimed at ensuring Iran does not obtain a nuclear bomb, would be successful. Olmert again made it clear that Jerusalem sharply disagreed with last year's US National Intelligence Estimate report that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons development program in 2003. "Based on the information we have, the military program continues and has never been stopped. If this program continues, at some point they will be in possession of a nuclear weapon," he said.