Rabin Says U.S. May Try to Involve Syria in Negotiations
Jun. 03, 1986
TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) _ Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin said Tuesday he has indications that the United States wants to involve Syria in negotiations aimed at ending Syria's close relationship with Iran.
He said in remarks to a Tel Aviv University seminar that it was preferable both for the United States and the Soviet Union that Syria heal its rift with Iraq and break off the alliance with Iran. He did not explain why.
Rabin gave no details of the American plans, but said:
''There are several signs that prove that following what happened in Libya, and Syria being caught red-handed in terrorism . .. the United States wants to exploit Syria's relative weakness to open negotiations aimed at weakening (Syria's) close ties with Iran.''
The defense minister said Israel prefers continued stalemate in the Iran- Iraq war, which began in September 1980. ''We don't want any resolution of this war,'' he said.
Israeli officials have said in the past that the prolonged Persian Gulf war has neutralized two of this country's major enemies.
In a policy statement in Washington last week, a State Department official outlined a somewhat ambivalent attitude toward Syria.
Robert B. Oakley, director of the department's counterterrorism office, told reporters the United States was weighing evidence that President Hafez Assad's government was involved in the April bombing of a West Berlin discotheque frequented by American soldiers and an attempt to smuggle a bomb onto an Israeli jetliner in London.
He added that the United States had not yet decided how to respond. ''There are a lot of different elements to our relationship with Syria,'' he said.
Oakley denied news reports that Washington's hands were tied by Syrian attempts to negotiate the release of Westerners held by kidnappers in Lebanon.
Rabin said King Hussein of Jordan might be trying to ''score points with the Arab world, the United States and the Soviets'' with recent visits to Syria and Iraq.
Foreign diplomats in Baghdad said last week that, as a result of the monarch's mediation, negotiations had begun on reopening the Iraqi oil pipeline to the Mediterranean that passes through Syria. Assad shut down the pipeline 18 months after the Iran-Iraq war began. He supports Iran.
Syria and Iraq are ruled by rival factions of the Arab Baath Socialist Party and have been feuding for years.
Hussein met Tuesday with French President Francois Mitterrand in Paris and then told reporters, ''It is our (Jordan's) job to do everything in our power to strengthen Arab cohesision. I am personally optimistic about the success of the current talks.''
Hussen will go from France to Britain for talks with Prime Minister Margarget Thatcher and then is scheduled to meet with President Reagan in Washington on June 9.
An Iranian newspaper, the daily Resalat of Tehran, said last week that the attempt to improve relations between Syria and Iraq was inspired by Washington and its ''eventual aim is to weaken Syria.''
The Israeli daily Davar reported this week that Syria had asked several Western countries for urgent credit to purchase millions of tons of wheat. The United States once was a major source of wheat for Syria, but stopped grain sales and financial aid more than three years ago.
Recent Western visitors to Damascus reported a drastic decline in Syria's foreign currency reserves, estimating them at no more than $100 million.
Claude Cheysson, foreign affairs commissioner of the European Common Market, arrived in Damascus on Monday to discuss economic cooperation.
Assad also sent his vice president, Abdel Halim Khaddam, to Moscow last week for talks with Kremlin leaders that brought promises of more economic and military aid. Syria is the main Soviet ally in the Middle East.