Sarkozy to visit Syria in bid to push for direct Israeli-Syrian talks

French President Nicholas Sarkozy will visit Syria in January 2009, his second visit to the country in the space of four months, Israel Radio reported. Topping Sarkozy's agenda will be an attempt to coax Syrian President Bashar Assad into entering direct peace negotiations with Israel. Syrian-Israeli talks, which have been ongoing since April, have been mediated by Turkey and the Syrians have so far refused to sit directly with the Israelis. In other Syrian news, an al-Qaida affiliated Syrian Website reported that a commander in the Fatah al-Islam terror group was killed in Syria. The commander, Shaker al-Absi, has been missing since the bitter fight between the Lebanese Armed Forces and Fatah al-Islam terrorists in the Palestinian refugee camp of Naher el Bared in Lebanon last year. Damascus has not issued an official response to the report claiming that Absi was killed. Syria accuses Fatah al-Islam for a terror attack in Damascus in September, in which 17 people were killed.