John Sununu, the Arab-American whose appointment as White House chief of staff upset some Jews, says the key to a Middle East peace is "to guarantee the integrity and strength of Israel as a sovereign nation."

Sununu made the statement in an interview printed Monday in the Jerusalem Post, adding that he expected President-elect George Bush and incoming Secretary of State James Baker to pursue peace in the region."I think they're smart enough to know that it's in this country's (U.S.) interest to deal with the tough issues and no one can stay that it's not one of the great tough issues," he said, referring to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

When asked if he had strong feelings about the Middle East because of his Arab ancestry, he replied: "I have feelings in this sense: I think that . . . as time has moved forward that we have opportunities to move toward peace."

He told the Post it was "in Israel's interest, the United States' interest, frankly everyone's interest, to achieve peace and tranquility in the Middle East."