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Olmert Plans to Meet Abbas Later This Month


Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says he plans to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the end of June.

Mr. Olmert told Israel's Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper that he is ready to meet Mr. Abbas to explore whether negotiations are possible on the basis of the U.S.-backed "road map" to peace.

The "road map" requires the disarming of Palestinian militants and halting Jewish settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank.

Israel has said it believes peace negotiations are unlikely. It has called Mr. Abbas irrelevant and refuses to negotiate with the Hamas-controlled Palestinian government.

Mr. Olmert has said Israel will set its borders unilaterally if it has no partner for negotiations. He said Israel will annex three large settlement blocks and withdraw from most other areas in the occupied West Bank.

In the interview, Mr. Olmert says the withdrawal would take place in what he called "one single step," rather than in stages. He says a phased withdrawal would be too traumatic for Israel.

Last year, militant Jewish settlers attempted to block Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, clashing with Israeli troops over several days.

Mr. Olmert also says before meeting the Palestinian leader, he plans to hold talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Jordan's King Abdullah and European leaders.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.

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