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THE WEEK AHEAD

DAMASCUS : To Talk or Not to Talk

March 23, 1993

Syria will play host Sunday to a key meeting of Arab foreign ministers aimed at establishing a unified response to America's invitation to Israel and its neighbors to resume peace talks in Washington on April 20.

The Syrian session will be watched closely by the Clinton Administration and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who welcomed U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher's invitation with strong indications last week that his government may be prepared to give up the Golan Heights in exchange for peace agreements.

At the top of Sunday's agenda in Damascus, though, is the main hurdle blocking the talks: 396 Palestinian men who were deported from their homes in the Israeli-occupied territories last December and remain in a no-man's-land in southern Lebanon. The Palestine Liberation Organization has refused to attend the peace talks until Israel grants additional compromises on the deportee issue.

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