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Syrian Leader Visits White House

September 29, 1999

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Clinton met with the Syrian foreign minister here today, a day after Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said the U.S. still hopes for a jumpstart to stalled Israeli-Syrian and Israeli-Lebanese peace talks.

Syrian foreign minister Farouk al-Sharaa visited the White House this morning as part of an extended trip to the United States that included inconclusive talks with U.S. diplomats in New York last week. The United States hopes to help persuade Israel to yield the strategic Golan Heights.

Al-Sharaa did not pause to talk to reporters as he left the White House, and U.S. officials offered no immediate details on what the two men discussed.

In New York on Tuesday, Albright suggested that both Israel and Syria, in particular, ``clearly want to find a way forward. Both are treating the other with unusual trust and respect.″

``The issue here is whether we can find the way to restart negotiations that will match the will that all sides profess to feel,″ she told an audience of leaders of Jewish organizations.

After the White House meeting al-Sharaa flew to New York to meet with Albright.

Asked about the prospect for Israeli-Syrian talks, State Department spokesman James Foley said both sides have indicated an interest in a negotiated settlement.

``And they’re not going to be able to do that unless they get to the table,″ Foley said. ``And when they get to the table then all those issues will, presumably, be put on the table and will be discussed and negotiated.″

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