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Israeli, Syrian Presidents Shake Hands At Pope's Funeral

8 April 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Israeli Radio reports Israeli President Moshe Katzav and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad shook hands today at the funeral of Pope John Paul.

The handshake in Vatican City was believed to be the first time the presidents of Israel and Syria -- two countries officially at war -- have shaken hands.

The radio said Katzav and Assad, sitting one row apart, said "good morning" to one another and shook hands as the funeral got under way. The radio said Assad approached Katsav and shook his hand again after the ceremony was over.

Israel and Syria last held peace negotiations in 2000, which foundered over the future of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Israeli Radio said the Iranian-born Katzav also spoke briefly at the funeral in his native Farsi with Iranian President Mohammad Khatami. Iran officially seeks Israel's destruction.