Russia urges Syria to attend Annapolis conference

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Sultanov visited Damascus on Sunday in an effort to convince Syrian President Bashar Assad that Syria should attend the Middle East conference in Annapolis. Syrian Information Minister Mohsen Bilal, interviewed by Asharq Alawsat, said that Syria had not yet received an invitation to the conference. However, he backtracked from the position previously expressed by Syria - that if the Golan Heights was not on the agenda, Syria would not attend the parley. Israel has emphasized that the conference will mainly discuss the Palestinian issue, but both Jerusalem and Washington want Syria to participate, seeing it as an opportunity to attempt to draw it away from its alliance with Iran. An unnamed Syrian source told Saudi-based Al Watan that "it is not enough for the Golan Heights to be mentioned in the opening and closing statements." The Golan has to be discussed in depth as part of the conference's agenda, the source said. Meanwhile, Radio Sawa, an American station broadcasting in Arabic from Kuwait, reported overnight Sunday that US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was scheduled to visit Israel again before the Annapolis conference. The report, quoted by Israel Radio, was not confirmed by the US administration.