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צילום: אלי אלגרט
Defense Minister Amir Peretz
Photo: Eli Elgarat
צילום: איי אף פי
Syrian President Bashar Assad
Photo: AFP
Peretz: Syria keeping war option open
Defense minister tells cabinet Damascus is calling for peace but 'is keeping war option open;' says Israel should bolster Abbas

Defense Minister Amir Peretz told cabinet ministers on Wednesday that Syria was working against the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and is calling for peace "while keeping open the option of war."

 

Peretz updated ministers on the situation in Lebanon and Syria and the latest spate of violence in the Palestinian territories.

 

Peretz said the Israel Defense Forces completed its withdrawal from southern Lebanon. He added that the Lebanese Army and the United Nations peacekeeping force have deployed along the border with Israel.

 

The defense minister said tension between Hizbullah and its Syrian patrons and the Lebanese government is high.

 

Peretz said Israel plans to set up a joint border guard unit to secure the border and stressed the need for the UN force to change its opening-fire regulations.

 

He also said Lebanese demands that Israel withdraws troops from the border village of Rajar could be addressed.

 

"We need to keep up pressure on the international community to solve the issue of the kidnapped soldiers, to impose the (arms) embargo on Hizbullah and to strengthen Lebanese responsibility for improving the infrastructure, and not through Iran and Hizbullah," he said.

 

'Abbas should be bolstered' 

Speaking about the situation in the Palestinian Authority, Peretz said Israel "should strive for processes to stabilize Palestinian institutions through the road map, and preventing the Palestinian's humanitarian situation from deteriorating."

 

Peretz said US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was arriving in Israel.

 

"The secretary of state's visit is aimed at reviving dialogue with Abu Mazen (Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas) and to bolster him … Rice is aspiring to recruit the Arab block which is accepting of efforts to establish a Palestinian government that accepts the Quartet's conditions, part of efforts to weaken the radical axis in the region," he said.

 

Speaking about the latest spate of violence between Fatah and Hamas, Peretz said Israel is not part of the feud.

 

"Any progress requires the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit and ceasing Qassam fire. Israel has to present a diplomatic-PR campaign on the issue to end the economic and political boycott of Hamas."

 

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