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Israeli PM to Meet Abbas at End of June
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Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that he would meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the end of June to see whether there is any ground to resume peace negotiations, local media reported on Thursday.

In an exclusive interview with local newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth published on Thursday, Olmert said, "I plan to meet with Abbas toward the end of June, after I meet with (Egyptian President Hosni) Mubarak, (Jordanian King) Abdullah and European leaders.

"However, Olmert added, "I won't concede the conditions to holding negotiations, as it was established in the roadmap peace plan and by the Quartet."

The Quartet, grouping key Mideast peace mediators of the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia, has demanded the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) which took power in late March to renounce violence, recognize Israel's right to exist and abide by previous Palestinian-Israeli agreements.

Under the internationally-backed roadmap plan, the Palestinians are expected to dismantle militant groups while Israel should freeze settlement expansion. Neither side has fulfilled the commitment.

"I will meet Abbas to see if there is a chance to respect these conditions. If there is, there will be talks. If not, we'll act independently, but not alone. We will hold talks with the United States and the European community and try to create momentum with the other side, but not the Palestinian side," he added.

In addition, the prime minister also said that he wanted to carry out possible more West Bank withdrawals in one major step. "I want to clarify that I am opposed to dividing the realignment into stages. This process will be difficult and painful even if it goes smoothly. I think carrying it out in stages will traumatize the public and I have mentioned before that I am opposed to this," he said.

At the same time, Olmert also showed his determination to implement the so-called realignment plan, saying "Nothing will stop me...I hope that at the end of my term, the reality here will be completely different."

Under the plan, known as the realignment or convergence plan, Olmert intends to draw Israel's final borders with the Palestinians by 2010 by evacuating isolated settlements in the West Bank while keeping the major ones with or without peace talks with the Palestinian side.

Olmert is scheduled to meet with leaders of Egypt, Jordan, Britain, France and Germany later this month in an effort to win support to his pullout plan.

Abbas, on his part, said that he was ready to talk with Olmert during a meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres on the sidelines of a regional economic forum in Egypt last month.

But the outcome of the possible Olmert-Abbas meeting is uncertain as some Israeli officials have considered Abbas as unable to speak for the Palestinian now that Hamas, which calls for Israel's destruct, assumes power.

(Xinhua News Agency June 2, 2006)

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