"This provocative Israeli decision comes a few weeks after the Syrian initiative for the resumption of peace talks...it unveils the true intentions of Israeli leaders that contradict
the goal of establishing peace," the official Syrian news agency quoted a letter to the Council and the world body as saying.

On Wednesday, Israeli Agriculture Minister Yisrael Katz said the government had agreed to double the settlers on the Golan to tighten the Jewish state's grip over the strategic plateau, which was captured from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war.

Plans denied

However, on Friday, Israel's Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said there were no plans to expand the settlements.

Olmert said Katz, who runs the right-wing cabinet's settlement committee, might have wanted to press for such a plan but he had been wrong to say there was any scheme to develop agricultural, tourist or settlement infrastructures.

The Israeli statement comes weeks after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad urged Washington to help revive Syrian-Israeli peace talks that fell apart in 2000.

"Such expansionist and colonialist decisions will only increase Syria's determination to restore all of its land occupied by Israel"

Official Syrian statement

"Such expansionist and colonialist decisions will only increase Syria's determination to restore all of its land occupied by Israel," the official Syrian letter said.

"This kind of decision will only bring more losses, tension and instability to them (Israelis) and to the rest of the region's people."

Druze
 
Some 17,000 Jewish settlers live in the heights among 20,000 Druze who consider themselves as Syrians.

Israel officially annexed the Golan in 1981, a unilateral move that was condemned internationally. Syria, still technically at war with Israel, demands the area's return as the
price for peace with the Arab world.
 
As well as strategic high ground near hostile neighbours, the fertile Golan Heights ensure Israeli control of important water resources in the arid region, land for vineyards, orchards and cattle-grazing as well as Israel's only ski resort.