Syria Criticizes Sharon's Approach to Peace Talks

Syria denounced Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (search)'s insistence that peace talks can only resume with no preconditions, saying Friday that Sharon wanted to erase what was achieved in previous talks.

Damascus has long said that if talks with Israel resume, they must pick up where they left off in 2000.

Sharon said Thursday he was prepared to resume negotiations with Syria (search) as long as Syria brought no conditions to the table.

State-run Damascus Radio said Friday that "negotiations without preconditions, according to Israel, means suspending international terms of reference in order to negotiate on Israel's terms — which regard Israeli security as the basis for peace."

"This contradicts the land-for-peace principle," said the radio, which reflects government thinking.

Israeli-Syrian negotiations broke down in 2000 in a dispute over the amount of land to be returned to Syria. Israel occupies the Golan Heights (search), which it captured from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war.

Israel, then under the government of Prime Minister Ehud Barak, insisted on retaining the entire shore of the Sea of Galilee, a lake at the western foot of the heights. Syria wanted a portion of the shoreline, which it had controlled until the 1967 war.

"What Israel is trying to do is to contain or thwart any serious move toward a just and comprehensive peace in the region through resorting to maneuvers and misleading ways to evade carrying out the requirements of peace," the radio said.

The Syrian comments come a day before U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell visits Israel in a bid to promote the internationally-backed "road map" plan for peace in the Middle East.

Powell is due to arrive Saturday night and will hold talks with the Palestinian leadership as well as the Israelis. He visited Syria last weekend.