Public Figures Attempting Syria Talks Outside Official Track, Says Olmert

PM also says Hezbollah chief Nasrallah 'lost his confidence,' won't retaliate against Israel for Mughniyah death.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert accused "public figures in Israel" on Monday of circumventing the government and attempting to conduct informal contact with Syria.

Olmert told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee "I hope this doesn't happen. We must only take the official track for [peace] negotiations," not specifying who he was referring to.

Meanwhile, Israeli and Syrian negotiation teams were set to resume recently launched indirect talks in Turkey this week. Doctor Samir Taki, a senior official close to Syrian President Bashar Assad, said last week in Washington that a peace agreement between Israel and Syria could be achieved by the end of the year, but it would require U.S. involvement.

Taki told reporters that 95 percent of the security issues surrounding the peace deal had already been resolved.

During the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee session, the prime minister also said that Hezbollah would likely not avenge what he called the "disappearance" of the Lebanese militia's second in command, Imad Mughniyah, because Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah had "lost his confidence."

Mughniyah was killed in a car bomb in Damascus earlier this year, and Hezbollah was quick to blame Israel for his death. Israel has denied any involvement in the assassination, but Hezbollah officials have vowed to retaliate against Israel for his death.

Speaking before the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday, Olmert said that Nasrallah had lost his confidence in his ability to anticipate Israel's moves following the Second Lebanon War, in which Hezbollah was surprised by the force of Israel's response to the kidnapping of two Israel Defense Forces reservists on Israel's northern border. Therefore, fearing a "disproportional" response on Israel's behalf, Nasrallah would likely refrain from retaliating, Olmert said.