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Israel's Olmert at White House for Talks With Bush


Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is to meet with President Bush at the White House Tuesday, in what will be the two leaders' first talks since Mr. Olmert took office this month.

White House officials say the president and the prime minister will discuss ways to revive the Middle East peace process.

They are expected to focus on Mr. Olmert's plan to re-draw the Jewish state's borders, if the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians remains stalled.

A White House spokesman told reporters President Bush wants Mr. Olmert to hold negotiations with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Mr. Olmert's government has said peace talks with the Palestinians are not likely now that the militant Islamic group, Hamas, has taken power.

However, Israeli media are saying that Israel is willing to hold negotiations with Mr. Abbas if he fulfills a pledge to rein in terrorists.

Mr. Olmert's visit to Washington comes at a time of growing tension between the Palestinians' Hamas-led government and supporters of Mr. Abbas, who leads the Fatah group. The U.S. says Hamas is a terrorist group.

Media reports indicate President Bush will not comment in public on Mr. Olmert's plan to annex three large Jewish settlements on the West Bank by 2010. The reports say the U.S. will send two senior aides to Israel to gather more information on the plan.

U.S. officials say the two leaders also will discuss mutual concerns about Iran's nuclear program.

The Israeli prime minister met with U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld Tuesday before his talks with Mr. Bush. Mr. Olmert met with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Monday, and he will address a joint meeting of both houses of the U.S. Congress on Wednesday.

Some information for this report provided by Reuters, AP and AFP.

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