Syria says Israel seeks to use pact with PLO to divide Arabs

September 17, 1993|By New York Times News Service

DAMASCUS, Syria -- Syria sharply criticized Israel yesterday in its first official reaction to the accord between Israel and the Palestinians, asserting that Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's government intended the agreement to divide Arab ranks and maintain its hold on Arab land, including the Golan Heights.

Three days after the agreement was signed in Washington, Mohammed Salman, the Syrian information minister, said Israel had turned to secret negotiations in Norway with the Palestine Liberation Organization specifically because it wanted to circumvent the U.S.-sponsored peace process begun in Madrid, in which Israel has been engaged in talks with Syria, Jordan and Lebanon -- as well as the Palestinians -- over exchanging land for peace.

"It was not a coincidence that Rabin declared after the agreement was signed with the PLO that he is not in a hurry to negotiate with Syria," Mr. Salman said, referring to remarks this week by Mr. Rabin. He said the

Rabin government has also refused to discuss U.N. resolutions requiring that Israel withdraw from what it calls its security zone in southern Lebanon.

But even as Syria cast doubt on Israel's motives in reaching the accord, Mr. Salman, the government's chief spokesman, said Syria regarded as positive the assurances from President Clinton that the United States would work toward a comprehensive settlement and "the achievement of progress on all tracks" of the peace negotiations, which completed their 11th round last week in Washington.

At no point in Mr. Salman's remarks did he criticize Yasser Arafat or the PLO for reaching an agreement with Israel. Until now, Syria has neither endorsed nor opposed Mr. Arafat's move.

In Washington, meanwhile, administration officials said yesterday that President Clinton will propose to U.S. allies that the United States hold a conference for donor countries to pledge money for Middle East peace efforts.

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