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Syria breaks silence on Rabin murder


Told U.S. official slaying was 'tragic event'

November 6, 1995
Web posted at: 7 a.m. EST (1200 GMT)

From Senior White House Correspondent Wolf Blitzer

Blitzer live in Israel

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Syria, officially silent immediately after the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, has now condemned the killing. Reporters traveling with President Clinton and the U.S. delegation to Rabin's funeral Monday were briefed on a telephone call placed by U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher to Syrian President Hafez Al-Assad after Saturday's murder. Assad told Christopher that Rabin's assassination was "a tragic event," according to a senior Clinton administration official.

Leaders from two other Arab neighbors of Israel, King Hussein of Jordan and President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, are attending the funeral.

Syria and Lebanon are the only immediate neighbors of Israel which have not reached a peace agreement with the Jewish state. Negotiations are stalled over the issue of the Golan Heights, which Israel seized from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war. Christopher visited Damascus a week ago as part of an effort to revive the Israeli-Syrian peace talks. Before the Rabin assassination, U.S. officials said they hoped to see the talks resumed at some point.

Clinton plans private talks

map of region

During the flight to Jerusalem aboard Air Force One, Clinton and former presidents George Bush and Jimmy Carter spoke with reporters and praised Rabin and his legacy. Bush expressed hope that the large bipartisan U.S. delegation will underscore U.S. support for Mideast peace efforts.

Clinton said he thought it was not yet appropriate to discuss substantive Mideast political developments in advance of the funeral but said that afterward he would hold private talks with King Hussein, President Mubarak, Acting Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, Israeli President Ezer Weizman and Israeli Likud opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu.

Although Assad condemned the Rabin assassination, militant anti-Israel groups have expressed their approval. An Islamic Jihad leader in Damascus, Syria's capital, said he did not regret the murder of Rabin, whom he called "the leader of world terrorism." "So what if the world loses a criminal," Abu Ahmad Issam told Agence France Press. Islamic Jihad accuses Israel of plotting the assassination of Islamic Jihad leader Fathi Shakaki in Malta on October 26. Israel has not denied it.

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