US urges Syria talks

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Jerusalem - The US Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, launched an effort to rescue the stalled negotiations between Israel and Syria yesterday with a final round of shuttle diplomacy between Damascus and Jerusalem, writes Patrick Cockburn. Israel would like to see a summit between its Prime Minister, Shimon Peres, and President Hafez al-Assad by May.

Despite intense diplomatic efforts by the US, talks near Washington have not achieved a breakthrough. President Assad is reported to have told a visiting delegation in Damascus earlier this week: "I have a day, I have a month, I have a year and I have a generation."

Israel wants to upgrade the level of the talks with Syria to speed up negotiations. It also wants Syria to compromise on the line to which Israel would withdraw on the Golan Heights.

Mr Peres has given priority to trying to achieve peace with Syria since he took over from the murdered Yitzhak Rabin in November. He has allowed the US to play a bigger role in the negotiations, which pleased Syria because Mr Assad believes that only Washington has the influence to extract concessions from Israel.