Abbas to hold further talks with Israel’s Olmert

A023918312.jpgJERUSALEM (Reuters) – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will meet again with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday, Israeli and Palestinian officials said.

The next round of talks in Jerusalem will come days after a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that made little progress toward a goal of a limited peace accord before President George W. Bush leaves office in January.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told Reuters on Friday Abbas and Olmert would meet to “review the negotiations and the final status issues”.

The leaders would also discuss a Western-backed peace “road map” that demands Israel halt settlement building in occupied territory and that Palestinians rein in militants, Erekat said.

An Israeli official confirmed the talks would take place, saying they would be held in Jerusalem.

The leaders last met on August 6. Israel freed 198 Palestinian prisoners from its jails on Monday, in a gesture that sought to boost the Western-backed Abbas, who faces challenges from the Islamist Hamas group that seized control of Gaza last year.

Analysts doubt Washington’s goal of a quick peace deal will be met, as Olmert, weakened by a corruption probe, has vowed to step down once his Kadima party chooses a new leader next month.

Though Olmert could remain in power for weeks afterwards as a caretaker prime minister, his weakened political stature would likely hamper his clout to make critical diplomatic decisions.

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