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Israel Rejects Palestinian Prisoner Release List

Israeli officials have rejected a list of Palestinian prisoners to be swapped in exchange for the release of an Israeli soldier being held by Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip. VOA's Jim Teeple has details from our Jerusalem Bureau.

A statement from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office says Israel is disappointed with the list of prisoners submitted by Hamas officials, as part of a proposed prisoner swap. The statement was issued after a meeting of top-level Israeli security and intelligence officials.

News of a prisoner swap has been building for several days, with unofficial estimates of the number of Palestinian prisoners to be released at more than 1,000. They would be exchanged for Israeli Corporal Gilad Shalit, who was seized last June by Hamas militants, in a cross-border raid from the Gaza Strip.

Miri Eisen, Prime Minister Olmert's media advisor, says the list of prisoners Israel received from Hamas is unacceptable.

"In this case the demands are ludicrous or, as we put it, very disappointing. We hope to go forward," Eisen said. "For us it is the utmost importance. We do not want to raise expectations, not for the family of Gilad Shalit. All of Israel thinks of Gilad, it is there for him, but this list was unacceptable."

Among those Palestinians said to be on the list are Marwan Barghouti - a senior Fatah leader who was sentenced to five life terms for planning attacks against Israelis - and Ahmad Sadat, the head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, who Israel says planned the assassination of Israeli cabinet minister Rehavam Ze'evi, five years ago.

Palestinian Information Minister Mustapha Barghouti, who is not a member of either Hamas or Fatah, told reporters both men were on the prisoner list.

Barghouti says the negotiations, which are being brokered by Egyptian officials, have been going on for some time and that now the ball is in Israel's court.

Two other Israeli prisoners who were captured by Lebanese Hezbollah militants in a cross-border raid, last year in northern Israel, are not part of the discussions.

Israeli officials say, despite their disappointment over the list they received, there has been some progress in the negotiations. Israel's so-called security cabinet will convene, Sunday, to discuss the matter.

The topic will likely be at the top of the agenda when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas meets with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, next week, as part of their agreement to hold bi-monthly meetings - following the visit to the region last month by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.