Syria boycotts a U.S.-sponsored economic development conference Officials are frustrated about Israel's strong role

October 29, 1995|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

DAMASCUS, Syria -- The Syrian government is voicing new frustration at what it calls signs that Israel is being allowed to forge an increasingly strong role in the Middle East.

As other Arab delegations prepare to join Israeli officials at a U.S.-sponsored economic conference that begins today in Amman, Jordan, the Damascus government has decided to stay away, and it is pointing to the gathering to sound new alarms at what it regards as capitulation by others.

"There is no way to compel Syria to abandon her rights and dignity because if she did that, she would be like the one who places a bomb that permanently threatens the security of the region," Vice President Abdul Halim Khaddam warned in a recent speech.

After 47 years formally in a state of war, Syria remains firm in insisting that peace requires a complete Israeli withdrawal from occupied territory in the Golan Heights.

But now that the Palestine Liberation Organization and Jordan have concluded accords with Israel, Damascus is portraying Israel as a dangerous beneficiary of a deeply flawed peace.

In announcing Syria's boycott of the economic development conference, officials here have portrayed it as bound to serve Israeli interests.

And with Jordan, the PLO and others plainly eager for the international aid from the Middle East Development Bank that the United States hopes the conference will establish, a government newspaper recently scorned the projects under review as likely only to "establish the so-called new Middle East under Israeli leadership."

Syrian frustration has increased since June, when the latest round of talks with Israel abruptly collapsed. Syrian officials have said that their side has been unduly blamed for the breakdown of the discussions, which were adjourned after two days by Syrian negotiators.

They have said that an Israeli proposal then to maintain ground monitoring stations in the Golan Heights so contradicted Syria's longtime insistence on total Israeli withdrawal that the two sides had nothing left to talk about.

Syria has since watched Washington embrace the two Arab leaders it regards as most misguided: King Hussein of Jordan and PLO leader Yasser Arafat.

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