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Photo: Daniel Bar-On, Jini
Pushing. Olmert
Photo: Daniel Bar-On, Jini
Photo: AFP
Friendly. Bush
Photo: AFP
Olmert warns new US administration may not be as 'friendly'
Prime minister briefs cabinet on Washington visit, state of peace talks with Palestinians, Syria. Israel, he says, must advance process while Bush still president

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Tuesday Israel should push to advance peace talks the Palestinian Authority in the final months of US President George W. Bush's term in office as, "there is no telling what thing would look like once a new president is elected."

 

The current US administration, he said "is extremely friendly," and that therefore it would be unwise to waste such an advantage. "Time is of the essence," he added.

 

Olmert briefed the cabinet on the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, saying "we are seeing some progress, not only between (Palestinian President Mahmoud) Abbas and myself, but also between the Palestinian team and that headed by (Foreign Affairs Minister Tzipi Livni).

 

"We have not written agreement yet, but we are working towards finding a precise framework within the desired timetable… it's important that you understand – this pertains to the current US administration. I believe any American president would want to preserve the special friendship between Israel and the US, which is founded on common goals and interests," said Olmert.  

 

The prime minister then said he would be "glad to see the Lebanese government announce it was willing to launch direct, bilateral peace talks with Israel."

 

Olmert went on to brief the cabinet on the ongoing peace talks with Syria, saying both he and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have discussed the matter at length "since we have to be able to look into all the possibilities of holding such talks."

 

The Americans, he added, have expressed no reservations regarding the peace process, but rather wanted to be kept abreast of all the details.

 

According to Jerusalem sources quoted by Reuters on Monday, the indirect peace talks between Israel and Syria are scheduled to resume later this week, in Turkey.

 

"We expect the Israeli team to be in Turkey shortly," said Mark Regev, a spokesman for Olmert. Regev declined to give a specific date, but he said: "When talks move to direct talks that would be a sign of significant progress."

 

Reuters contributed to this report 

 

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