DHAKA, Bangladesh -- President Clinton said today he will meet in Switzerland next week with Syrian President Hafez Assad. An Israeli spokesman said he hoped that would get stalled Syria-Israel peace talks back on track,
The meeting will occur Sunday morning, on Clinton's way home from a six-day tour of South Asia.
''I think this is the next logical step,'' Clinton said, confirming speculation about the meeting during a joint news conference with the prime minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina.
Peace negotiations between Israel and Syria resumed in December after a lapse of more than three years but a second installment has yet to take place.
''I don't want to unduly raise expectations, but I think that this is an appropriate thing for me to do, to try to get this back on track,'' Clinton said.
National security adviser Sandy Berger told reporters, ''I don't expect an instant result from the meeting but hopefully it can move the process forward.''
''You can't move this thing forward without a face-to-face meeting with Assad,'' he said. Berger suggested that was what Clinton meant by ''next logical step.''
Israeli officials appeared to welcome the move.
''We hope that the meeting will bring about the resumption of the negotiations,'' said Gadi Baltiansky, speaking for Prime Minister Ehud Barak. But ''such negotiations can only take place when the circumstances are suitable," Baltiansky said.
''If there are direct talks between Israel and Syria, Israel will work toward reaching peace, while ensuring its vital interests and strengthening its security.''
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