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WAS FALL OF SYRIAN FLAG SYMBOLIC IN MIDEAST TALKS?

The briefing room was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. Or a Syrian flag.

The flag and its platform toppled forward one day this week as a senior Syrian diplomat was describing the latest peace talks with Israel. The flag and stand landed with a thud at the feet of an Israeli reporter.The reporter righted the flag, prompting a Syrian journalist to suggest that one day soon the Israeli would raise a Syrian flag on the Golan Heights - the bitterly contested ground that Israel captured from Syria in 1967.

"That would be very good, very good indeed," said Syria's Bushra Kanafani, to the sound of general laughter.

While that scenario appears farfetched, Israel and Syria - bitter enemies that have fought four wars in 44 years - did not rule out a peace agreement as they concluded their sixth round of talks Thursday.

"This round has proven that peace is possible between Israel and the Arab world and that this historic opportunity should not be wasted," Syria's chief delegate Muwaffiq al-Allaf said.

The talks will resume Oct. 21. They include the Israeli-Syrian talks, as well as those between Israel and Lebanon, Israel and Jordan and Israel and representatives of the 1.7 million Palestinians under Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

"We believe the parties have achieved a good foundation for future progress," Assistant Secretary of State Edward Djerejian said.

The United States has served as a sounding board during the talks, meeting regularly with the delegations and offering suggestions when asked. It also has served as a channel for messages.