Assad denies secret offer to Israel to curb Hamas, Hezbollah
Israel Radio quoted Al-Arabiya as saying Assad proposed crackdown on militant groups in return for talks with Israel.
Syrian President Bashar Assad on Tuesday denied a report, which Israel Radio said came from the Arab media, claiming he had sent a message to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert via Germany, in which he offered to crack down on Hamas and Hezbollah in exchange for a return to negotiations.
"There is no such proposal - nothing," he said.
Olmert and the German Foreign Office on Tuesday both denied the report, which could not be confirmed by any other source.
In a statement issued in the wake of the report, Olmert's bureau said that it "would like to make it clear that contrary to various reports, the prime minister has received no Syrian letter, neither from German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier nor from anyone else."
Right-wing parties responded to the report by calling the alleged Syrian message "spin," while the left-wing parties urged Olmert to respond to offers for peace.
MK Ran Cohen (Meretz) said the offer showed Syria was moving from words to action, adding that Israel must take the opportunity and cease refusal of peace offers.
Meretz faction chairman Zahava Gal-On called on Olmert not miss out on chances for peace, and to "desist from serving as the American agent in the region."
According to the radio, Al-Arabiya reported that Assad's message contained an offer to press the exiled Hamas leadership based in Damascus, which is headed by the group's political chief, Khaled Meshal.
Assad would reportedly work to halt communication from Damascus with the Hamas leadership in the Palestinian territories, which includes instructions on terrorist attacks as well as attempts to scupper recent unity government talks with Fatah.
He also offered to prevent weapons smuggling via Syria to Hezbollah in neighboring Lebanon.
The report said that the U.S. had dispatched its deputy national security advisor, Elliot Abrams, to hear Israel's response.
Peace talks between Damascus and Jerusalem, under the leadership of late Syrian president Hafez Assad and former prime minister Ehud Barak, broke down in 2000 over the terms of an Israeli withdrawal from the eastern shore of Lake Kinneret.