Olmert in Japan
Photo: Moshe Milner, GPO

Olmert: I regret war in south led to loss of life again

Prime minister discusses ongoing clashes in Gaza, kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, status of talks with Palestinians on Jerusalem, among other things at press conference in Japan

TOKYO - While the western Negev suffered another deadly barrage of Qassam rockets on Wednesday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was concluding his official State visit to Japan. Olmert received an update on the situation at Sapir College in Sderot from his military secretary, saying in response: "There is an ongoing war going on in the south. We regret that it once again cost human life."


According to security sources that spoke with the prime minister, the Qassam attack on the college was Hamas' response to the killing of terrorists belonging to the organization who were on their way to carry out attack against Israeli citizens.


Before Olmert was updated regarding the developing situation in Sderot, he held a press briefing for reporters in Tokyo. Speaking about the Gaza Strip-Egyptian border near Rafah, Olmert attempted to clear up any additional tension with Egypt.


"There is no violation on the Egyptian side of the peace agreement with Israel by putting police forces in Sinai. If there is a deviation (from the agreement), it is marginal and insignificant," Olmert said.


Next week, the Israeli leader will most likely discuss the matter as both US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Egyptian Intelligence Minister Omar Suleiman are expected to stopover.


"I will return to Israel and consult with the Defense Minister, and his opinion and the opinion of the security establishment are very important. The decision on what our position is will be made soon.


"However, it must be clear that the final goal must be that the Philadelphi corridor must be completely closed to weapons and money smuggling," Olmert clarified.


The coming of Egyptian Intelligence Minister Omar Suleiman to Israel is likely connected to attempts to arrange a deal for the release of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. Suleiman is connected to the ongoing negotiations on Hamas prisoners to be set free in exchange for Shalit.


All that Olmert agreed to say on the matter was related to the initiative of dozens of the kidnapped soldier's friend calling for his immediate release. "I totally understand the natural, social and human aspiration of Gilad Shalit's friends who will do everything to bring about his release. I want to elaborate on the matter, but all I can say is that everything that can be done is constantly being done," Olmert said.


In relation to a story reported by AFP on Sunday about two French lawyers who are planning to visit Gaza this weekend in an attempt to meet with the soldier's kidnappers, the prime minister said he had learned about the matter through the media.


"I don't know who they are working for. The whole way, France has exhibited a lot of sensitivity about Gilad Shalit, who has many good (people) working for him all over the world…But, I don't have any idea who these two lawyers are and, to the best of my knowledge, they are not connected to measures coordinated with us," he said.


Jerusalem last

In the press conference, Olmert emphasized a three-way connection between Iran, Syria and North Korea. "The axis of evil includes North Korea, Hamas and (Islamic) Jihad. There are no changes in this definition and its expiration date has not been reached as of late."


With regards to sanctions on Iran, Olmert said: "The International Atomic Energy Agency's report reduced the gravity of the problem. The Israeli position is that, according to the understanding and intelligence we have in our hands, Iran is acting and continues to act with full force with the goal of producing an unconventional capability.


"We must stop it, I think it is possible. I think that the window of opportunity has not passed. The effort that European countries and the US are putting forth is appreciated.


"I hope that in the next few days the UN Security Council will place (additional) sanctions and that other countries with place other sanctions on Iran. I think that there still is time, but is not unlimited.


Olmert also discussed the delay in the negations on Jerusalem. According to the prime minister, Jerusalem will be discussed last in negotiations with Palestinians even in the direct negotiations between negotiation team heads Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and former Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei.


"Jerusalem is not the first issue. Its time will come -- but (only) at the end."


פרסום ראשון: 02.27.08, 19:01
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