U.S. Senator: Assad Will Fight Arms Transfers to Hezbollah

Syrian President Bashar Assad told visiting United States Senator Arlen Specter that if he learns of "a single Syrian" who is transferring weapons to Hezbollah, he will make sure to stop it, Specter said.

In an interview with Channel 10 television reporter Chico Menashe yesterday, Specter said that Assad has asked him to relay to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that Syria is ready to hold talks with Israel without preconditions - though he added that when he pressed Assad on the subject, "his statements were not very clear."

Officials at the Prime Minister's Office, however, denied that Spector had brought any message from Assad to Olmert. They said he merely relayed what he heard from Assad.

Specter met with Olmert on Wednesday to inform him of his meetings in Damascus. The Republican senator has long been a welcome guest in Damascus, and he visited there often during the rule of Hafez Assad.

While Assad denies that he supports Hezbollah and Hamas, Specter said, when he asked the Syrian whether a peace agreement with Israel would affect his efforts to influence Hamas and Hezbollah, Assad's response was positive.

Asked if he believed Assad's statements on peace talks with Israel, the senator replied: "I don't know. I cannot judge." Israelis, he said, will have to decide that.