Olmert and Abbas meeting off

The outgoing Israeli prime minister and the Palestinian president will not be meeting for a new round of peace talks.

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The outgoing Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert and the Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas will not be meeting for a new round of peace talks tomorrow as was announced earlier this week, the Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said. "There will not be a meeting tomorrow," Mr Erakat said today, adding that discussions were under way to fix a date for one. On Monday, the Palestinian foreign minister Riyad Al-Malki had said a meeting would be held on Friday, but Mr Olmert's office never confirmed.

Mr Olmert and Mr Abbas have been meeting about twice a month since the peace process was relaunched at a US conference in November. Hounded by a series of corruption scandals, Mr Olmert formally resigned on Sept 21 after the governing Kadima party elected the foreign minister Tzipi Livni as its new leader. Ms Livni is trying to form a new coalition government so she can also take over as prime minister and avert early elections.

Last month, Mr Olmert said Israel must give up almost the entire occupied West Bank including east Jerusalem as the price for peace with the Palestinians. But he later said the comments, made in a newspaper interview, reflected his private view and were not binding for Livni. *AFP