Text size

Fatah secretary general in Lebanon Sultan Abu al-Einin said Thursday that four attempted attacks by the group near the Israeli border have been curbed by Hezbollah.

In an interview with the Nazareth-based newspaper Kul al-Arab, al-Einin said that in some of the incidents Hezbollah operatives detained the Palestinian militants sent to carry out the attacks and handed them over the Lebanese law-enforcement authorities.

United States Senator Arlen Specter said Thursday that Syrian President Bashar Assad denied accusations he is supporting Hamas and Hezbollah.

Spector told Channel 10 TV that Assad made the comments during their meeting in Damascus on Tuesday.

According to Specter, the Syrian president said: "If I know of one Syrian who is transferring weapons to Hezbollah - I will make sure to stop it."

When the senator asked Assad if he would be willing to exert his influence over the militant groups in the context of a peace agreement with Israel, the Syrian president responded that he would.

Specter and Assad also discussed peace negotiations with Israel. The senator said Assad asked to convey a message from him to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, asking him to tell the prime minister that "Syria is interested in peace negotiations with Israel."

But when pressed about whether there Assad had set any preconditions for the talks, Specter said "it got to be a little fuzzy." He said Israel would have to judge whether the offer was serious.

The Prime Minister's Office denied the senator conveyed a message from Assad, saying that Specter only presented his notes from the meeting with the Syrian president.

Roughly one and a half weeks ago, the Arabic-language satellite TV station "Al Arabiya" reported that Assad had sent a similar message to Olmert through German mediators.

According to the report, Assad promised to prevent the Damascus-based Hamas leadership from conveying instructions to Hamas leaders in the territories and prevent arms transfers to Hezbollah through Syria, in exchange for the renewal of peace talks.

While both Assad and Olmert denied the reports, this time it is the messenger himself who is confirming the message was conveyed.

Olmert said Thursday that he is open to "any murmur of peace" from Israel's neighbors.

In a speech to graduates of the air force pilot's course at a base in southern Israel, Olmert indicated he is softening his opposition. "The state of Israel is open to any murmur of peace from our neighbors and across our borders," he said.

"If our enemies genuinely want peace, they will find in us a fair partner, determined to establish relations of peace, friendship and reciprocity," he added.

Olmert's spokeswoman Miri Eisin, however, played down the comments. "He has constantly said that if we see anything different, a glimpse of change, then that would be interesting and could make a difference," she said.

However, Syria continues to support Israel's staunchest enemies - including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, as well as Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon, she added.