Assad: Peres Promised Open Peace Talks if Syria Cuts Iran Ties

Syrian leader says his country is 'ready for both peace and war'; Israeli president denies using Russian mediation to offer negotiations.


Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Syrian President Bashar Assad

Israel offered to engage in direct peace talks with Syria, provided Damascus cut ties with Iran and Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, Syrian President Bashar Assad said Tuesday.

President Shimon Peres had conveyed the proposal via his Russian counterpart Dimitry Medvedev, Assad told the Lebanese Daily Al-Safir.

"Our answer is clear," Assad was quoted as saying. "Reality proves Israel is not interested in peace and there is therefore nothing more to say."

The Russian president passed on Peres' message during a recent visit to Damascus, which coincided with a trip to Moscow by Peres, Assad said.

Peres' office on Tuesday denied Assad's claims.

"The president did not send Assad a letter, either through th eRussain president or through any other mediator," a spokesperson said in a statement.

But the president's staff did confrim reports that Peres took advantage of Russian mediation to reassure Assad that Israel did not intend to attack Syria or Lebanon this summer.

Assad said: "We are prepared for war, as well as for peace, at any given moment."

He added: "Syria would be more worried if the Israelis were silent, not when they were making threats," but that his country would not "abandon the path of resistence".

The Syrian leader also dimmissed Western slaims that Syria had passed advanced Scud missiles to Hezbollah, calling them "illusory".