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Abbas, Olmert to meet this week, officials say

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas will attend a gathering in Jordan this week, officials said Tuesday.
Palestinian President Abbas attends a meeting in Ramallah
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attends a meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Monday. Abbas is scheduled to meet Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for the first time this week.Loay Abu Haykel / Reuters
/ Source: The Associated Press

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will attend an international gathering in Jordan this week, officials said Tuesday, but it was unclear whether the men would meet privately.

A meeting would be the first between the two men since Olmert took office last month, and the first since the Islamic militant group Hamas won Palestinian legislative elections early this year.

Israeli and Palestinian officials said the two leaders would attend a small breakfast meeting Thursday hosted by Jordan’s King Abdullah II. The breakfast is taking place at a gathering of Nobel winners in the tourist town of Petra.

The officials said there were no immediate plans for a private meeting. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because a formal announcement hasn’t been made.

Jordanian officials said the kingdom is seeking to bring the Israeli and Palestinian leaders together, but declined to give further details.

Israeli withdrawal plan
Abbas has been trying to restart peace talks with Israel. Olmert has said he would be willing to meet the moderate Palestinian leader, but that meaningful peace talks cannot take place as long as Hamas, which controls the Palestinian legislature and Cabinet, remains committed to Israel’s destruction.

If peace efforts remain stalled, Olmert is planning a unilateral withdrawal from much of the West Bank. The Palestinians oppose the plan because Israel would still retain about 10 percent of the West Bank after the pullout.

Abbas has been pressuring Hamas to accept a proposal that implicitly recognizes Israel in hopes of restarting negotiations. Hamas has refused to accept the proposal, though negotiators claim the rivals are close to an agreement.