CAIRO — SECRETARY of State James Baker III said yesterday that there were wide differences between Israel and Syria about a proposed Middle East peace conference, especially on the role of the United Nations. ``There are significant differences ... between the positions of the governments of Syria and Israel with respect to whether or not there should be any United Nations involvement and with respect to whether or not the conference should be a one-time affair or should have some sort of continuity,'' Mr. Baker said.
In a six-hour meeting with Syrian President Hafez al-Assad in Damascus Sunday, Baker failed to persuade him to be more flexible on arrangements for the conference.
Israel insists that the UN, which it regards as hostile, be excluded from the conference, which it wants to be a one-day event that would then break up into bilateral negotiations.
Syria says the UN should have a significant role and wants the power to reconvene the conference periodically.