State-run media in Syria called on the United States on Monday to begin a direct dialogue with the country, a day after an influential US lawmaker said Washington could "bridge the gap" between Israel and Syria. US Senator Arlen Specter held talks with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus on Sunday and said the Arab leader was ready to make peace with Israel but needed Washington's help. The Syrian state-run newspaper Al-Thawra called on the US on Monday to build on the recent Mideast peace conference it sponsored in Annapolis, Maryland, by reaching out directly to Damascus. Washington "should be the most daring party to relaunch overt negotiations without hesitation," the paper said. "The US has a big role, which is still the most capable role to push the peace process forward."