Bush plans meeting with Olmert

Israel Materials 20 November 2008 21:33 (UTC +04:00)

US President George W Bush will hold talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Monday, the first meeting between the two leaders since the White House acknowledged that a peace deal by the end of the year is unreachable, dpa reported.

Bush and Olmert will discuss the peace process with the Palestinians as well as bilateral and regional issues, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Thursday.

The White House conceded on November 6 that achieving an Israeli- Palestinian peace accord by the time Bush leaves office January 20 was unlikely, citing the political turmoil in Israel that has slowed negotiations.

Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas agreed to the timeframe during the Middle East peace conference hosted by Bush in Annapolis, Maryland in November 2007.

But the resumption of direct negotiations between the two sides for the first time in years got off to a rocky start over Israeli clashes with Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Tel Aviv's announcement of new settlements in disputed areas.

The peace process was thrown into further disarray after corruption allegations against Olmert forced him to announce his resignation in September. He will stay on as prime minister until a new government can be formed.

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has succeeded Olmert as leader of the Kadima party but was unable to cut a deal with other parties to form a coalition, resulting in new elections scheduled for February 10.