Olmert meets Abbas; more prisoners to be released
Photo: AP

Israel to release prisoners as gesture to Abbas

Olmert meets PA leader Wednesday; Palestinians demand release of Marwan Barghouti, Ahmad Saadat

Despite his upcoming resignation and sensitive political status, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met Wednesday with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the PM's official residence in Jerusalem.


During the meeting, Israel announced that it would release several Palestinian prisoners as a gesture to Abbas by the end of August. The Palestinian requested that the released prisoners include former Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti and Ahmad Saadat, one of the masterminds behind the killing of Minister Rehavam Ze'evi.


Israeli officials refused to name or provide the number of prisoners to be released. However, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Israel agreed to release a total of 150 prisoners.


The meeting, which lasted about two hours, was also attended by the chief negotiators on both sides, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Ahmed Qureia. The first part of the meeting was attended by the negotiations teams, while the second part was dedicated to a face-to-face meeting between Abbas and Olmert. The two agreed to meet again soon.


'Wrong decision'

MK Gideon Sa'ar, chairman of the Likud faction slammed the government's decision to release more Palestinian prisoners.


"Olmert and Livni's decision to release Palestinian terrorists without getting anything in return is wrong and detrimental to both (national) security and the efforts made on behalf of Gilad Shalit. Such a move will only make Hamas set a higher rate in the Shalit negotiations," he said


Earlier, the Palestinians expressed their concerns over the continuation of negotiations in light of Olmert's announcement that he would step down following the Kadima primaries. Both the PA and Israel said they are interested in securing a "shelf agreement" by the end of 2008, as both sides committed to at the Annapolis Conference.


Wednesday's meeting was also aimed at preparing the expected visit of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice later this month.


Amnon Meranda and AFP contributed to the report


פרסום ראשון: 08.06.08, 16:29
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