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Syria will send its deputy foreign minister to the U.S.-sponsored Mideast peace conference in Annapolis, Md. because the issue of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights has been added to the agenda, the state-run news agency said Sunday.
The agency, SANA, said Syria will be represented at the conference by Deputy Foreign Minister Faysal Mekdad. The decision was made "after the Syria track was added to the conference agenda," the agency said.
A spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Israel saw the announcement as a positive development.
"The meetings are clearly about the Israeli-Palestinian process, but could be the beginning of new avenues to peace in the Middle East," spokeswoman Miri Eisin said.
Nearly 50 nations and organizations are set to attend the summit. Iran has not been invited.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said before the Syrian announcement that the peace conference would only serve the interests of Israel, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.
"The peace conference has no benefit for the oppressed Palestinian nation. It is only for supporting the Zionists occupiers," Ahmadinejad said.
Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said failure to negotiate a two-state solution with the Palestinians would spell the end of the State of Israel.
He warned of a "South African-style struggle" which Israel would lose if a Palestinian state was not established.
Mr Olmert was returning from the Annapolis conference in the US where he and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas pledged to launch formal peace talks.