SYRIA is to demand American help in securing the return of the Golan Heights from Israel as the price of co-operation over Iraq.

With the White House under pressure to talk to its adversary, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has resolved that his assistance will not come cheaply.

Mr Assad has been considering how to respond to an American overture following reports that the Iraq Study Group will recommend that the US engage Syria and Iran in talks on Iraq, a position backed by British Prime Minister Tony Blair last week.

The Syrian President wants the US and Britain to use their influence with Israel to raise the return to Syria of the Golan Heights, seized by the Israelis in the 1967 Six Day War.

“It will be the top demand,” said Ayman Abdel Nour, a leading reformer in the ruling Baath party.

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