Iran, Syria Stymie Peace Talks, Cheney Says

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:18 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - Iran and Syria are trying to torpedo the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Vice President Dick Cheney said here on Monday.

Cheney wrapped up 36-hour visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority on Monday, following a second meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. He told reporters on Monday that Iran and Syria -- as well as Hizballah and Hamas -- are are trying to undermine the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

H also said that Iran was dangerous, not only because of its pursuit of nuclear weapons, but because of its support for Hamas.

Cheney was sent here by President Bush to try to add momentum to the flagging Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that were restarted in Annapolis, Maryland, in November.

President Bush was here in January and is expected to return in May to celebrate Israel's 60th anniversary. Secretary of State Rice also is expected back in the region soon.

The vice president met with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday and said that creating a viable Palestinian state would require "painful concessions" by both Palestinians and Israelis.

It will require "a determination to defeat those who are committed to violence and who refuse to accept the basic right of the other said to exist," he said.

It is an "immutable truth" that terrorism and rockets "do not merely kill innocent civilians, they also kill legitimate hopes and aspirations of the Palestinian people," Cheney said. Hamas and other groups have been firing rockets at Israeli civilians from the Gaza Strip for months.

Cheney also pledged American assistance to the Palestinians. The U.S. signed an agreement to turn over $150 million in cash assistance to the P.A. last week. Abbas thanked Washington for the money, which is to be used for budgetary expenses in the P.A.

At a joint press conference in Jerusalem with Olmert on Saturday evening, Cheney said the U.S. would "never pressure Israel to take steps that threaten its security." He also said that "America's commitment to Israel's security is enduring and unshakeable."

According to radio reports, talks between Cheney and Olmert on Monday focused more on the Iranian issue. Defense Minister Ehud Barak was quoted by sources as having told Cheney in his meeting on Sunday not to take the military option regarding Iran off the table.

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