Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said yesterday it was time "the whole world takes it upon itself to get Syria out of Lebanon."

"It's time to liberate Lebanon from the Syrian occupation, which has lasted since 1976," Shalom said at the Knesset, in answer to motions for the agenda regarding Israel's relations with Syria and Libya.

Shalom accused the Syrians of exploiting Lebanon's wealth and resources for their own purposes. "A million Syrians work in Lebanon and the [profits from the] thriving Lebanese narcotics industry is intended solely for the purposes of the Syrian Ba'ath people," he said.

Shalom said, "The United States does not object to negotiations between Israel and Syria. The U.S. is demanding that Syria fulfill its commitments to Secretary of State Colin Powell in his visit to Damascus in May 2003, including dismantling the terror headquarters, closing the training camps, stopping the arms to Hezbollah and closing the joint border between Syria and Iraq."

Shalom called on Syria to come to negotiations with Israel without prior conditions and to show its positive intentions.

"We will test Syria's readiness for peace talks by its conduct, and not its statements," said Shalom.