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Shalom: Israel Willing to Speak with Syria Without Preconditions

By IsraelNationalNews.com

Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom announced Israel's willingness to engage in peace negotiations with Syria without any preconditions. This has been the position of recent government's including Prime Ministers Rabin, Peres, Barak, Netanyahu and Sharon. From time-to-time, Syrian President Bashar el-Assad releases a trial balloon to test Israel's willingness to enter into talks. Assad however always includes the same precondition, Israel's agreement to withdraw from the Golan Heights. Officials in Damascus have reiterated that without an Israeli handover of the Golan prior to negotiations, there wouldn't be any negotiations.


Israel in Range of New Iranian Missile

By BBC News & AFP

Iran has brought into service a new ballistic missile that is capable of hitting Israel. Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei attended a televised ceremony to hand over to the armed forces the Shahab-3 missile, which has a range of 800 miles. "Today our people and our armed forces are ready to defend their goals anywhere," Khamenei was quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.

Israel and the United States - which both accuse Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons - have expressed grave concerns over the latest developments.

Iran is also under growing pressure from the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, to sign the so-called additional protocol to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, allowing tighter inspections of its nuclear facilities. Iran has repeatedly denied the charges, insisting that its missile program is purely meant as a deterrent.

Iranian television showed Khamenei, flanked by officers and other clerics, and three of the Shahab-3 rockets on what appeared to be mobile launchers. "This divine force has answered all threats," Khamenei was quoted as saying in front of about 1,000 troops in ceremonial dress.

Iranian television also reported that the Revolutionary Guards - who have their own air force - were given some new but unidentified attack and transport helicopters as well as an undisclosed number of Russian-built Sukhoi-25 jets.

The head of the Revolutionary Guards, Yahya Rahim-Safavi, was quoted as saying in his speech during the ceremony that his force was now "ready to defend Iran against any threat". And we are witnessing today that this divine force is now doing the same for the Lebanese and the Palestinian people,

The surface-to-surface missile was first tested in 1998. It was handed over to the armed forces after the final test was conducted earlier this month. The Shahab-3 could also reach eastern Turkey and Pakistan. In Farsi, Shahab means "meteor" or "shooting star."

Palestinian, Israeli PMs Discuss Prisoner Release Bt Ross Dunn (VOA-Jerusalem) & IsraelNationalNews.com


Israel will announce later this week a decision on whether to release more Palestinian prisoners. The issue was discussed during more than two hours of talks between the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas.

During his talks with Sharon, Abbas demanded the release of more Palestinian prisoners and asked for Israeli troops to withdraw from Palestinian self-rule areas of the West Bank. In addition, Abbas demanded that Israel lift its siege of the headquarters of Palestinian President Yasir Arafat in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Sharon told Abu Mazen that he cannot ignore the fact that incitement and terrorism have decreased - but that neither can he pass over the fact that the terrorist organizations are becoming stronger during this period of hudna (temporary ceasefire). "The Israeli public has the feeling," Sharon said, "that the hudna is fragile and dependent on the goodwill of individual terrorists."

Sharon told Abu Mazen that if the PA comes up with an effective and proven plan to fight terror and disarm terrorists, "Israel will be quite forthcoming in what it can do for the PA."

Israel's decision on the release of Palestinian prisoners is to be announced only after the ministerial committee in charge of the issue meets Wednesday. Officials in Sharon's office told reporters that the government would make a distinction between Palestinian prisoners who were convicted in a court of law and what it calls "administrative detainees." The officials said Palestinian detainees, including members of Islamic militant groups, could be set free, provided they were not suspected of involvement in murder.

Palestinian officials claim that Israel is holding 8,000 Palestinian prisoners. Israel says the number is closer to 6,000. The Palestinian Authority said the release of more prisoners is vital for maintaining a three-week-old truce by Palestinian groups.

Israel media reported that Sharon might consider releasing thousands of Palestinian prisoners in the future. This would be on condition that the Palestinian Authority agrees to halt attacks by Palestinian militant groups against Israelis. Following his talks with Sharon, Abbas was expected to travel to Jordan and Egypt for talks with officials on ways to move the peace process forward.

On Friday, Abbas is to meet President George W. Bush at the White House. A few days later, Bush is scheduled to hold a separate meeting with Sharon. The meetings are aimed at promoting the international "road map" Middle East peace plan, which calls for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state by 2005.

Sharon told Abu Mazen that he cannot ignore the fact that incitement and terrorism have decreased - but that neither can he pass over the fact that the terrorist organizations are becoming stronger during this period of hudna (temporary ceasefire). "The Israeli public has the feeling," Sharon said, "that the hudna is fragile and dependent on the goodwill of individual terrorists."

Sharon told Abu Mazen that if the PA comes up with an effective and proven plan to fight terror and disarm terrorists, "Israel will be quite forthcoming in what it can do for the PA."


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