Golan issue blights peace moves

TABA, Egypt (Reuter) - The Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak, yesterday said he believed Syria would not sign a peace accord with Israel unless the Jewish state withdrew from the Golan Heights.

Speaking at a news conference with the Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, Mr Mubarak said: 'Syria will never accept signing any peace treaty unless (there is) a complete withdrawal from the Golan Heights.'

Mr Rabin, trying to draw Syria into a peace deal, said Israel understood it would have to meet 'certain requirements' to settle the conflict with Syria. 'I hope there will be a change as a result of what has happened with the Palestinians and the Jordanians on the Syrian side,' he said in reference to Israeli peace deals reached in the last 10 months.

Israeli-Syrian peace talks are stuck on the fate of the Golan Heights, captured by Israel in 1967. Syria has demanded a full withdrawal; Israel is willing to pull back but will not say how far until Syria commits itself to full peace.

Mr Rabin did not elaborate on what he meant by 'requirements', and declined to specify the extent of the withdrawal Israel envisaged in a peace deal.

Mr Rabin and Mr Mubarak, their countries partners to a landmark 1979 treaty, met for nearly two hours in Taba, just across the Israeli border, to discuss how Israel might clinch a peace deal with Syria.

Egypt's semi-official al-Ahram newspaper said the US Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, would return to the Middle East on 8 August to mediate between Israel and Syria.