Gulf & Middle East
Olmert invites Arab leaders to meeting
Apr 2, 2007 - 11:14:41 AM

Jerusalem, April 2 - Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has invited leaders of all Arab states' to a meeting for 'sharing of views'.

'I would like to take this opportunity, when I am here with the president of the European Union, to invite all the heads of the Arab states to a meeting,' Olmert said Sunday evening during a press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

'I don't want to impose on them what they should say,' he said, adding that there is 'no need for our statements to be identical in such a preliminary meeting'.

'I want to announce to the heads of Arab states that if the king of Saudi Arabia will initiate a meeting with the heads of the moderate - states, and will invite me and the Palestinian president, to present before us the Saudis' ideas, we will be happy to hear them and voice our views.'

Olmert, who said he was 'optimistic', referred to Saudi Arabian King Abdullah as a 'very important' regional leader and said 'there are things I can tell him in private that cannot be said in public'.

Merkel called for increased involvement of Arab states in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

The Israeli premier denied reports of a planned joint attack in which the US would attack Iran and Israel would attack Syria and the Hezbollah militant movement in Lebanon. Olmert called the claims an 'unfounded rumour'.

Earlier Sunday, the head of Israeli military intelligence had said that Syria, Iran and Hezbollah are preparing for a possible summer war, which they believe will be a US-Israeli joint effort.

Olmert issued the offer of a meeting with Arab leaders in answer to a reporter's question regarding Israel's position on the Arab peace initiative, relaunched during last week's Arab League summit in Riyadh.

The Arab proposal calls for Israel to withdraw from all territory occupied in the 1967 war and for the creation of a Palestinian state, in return for normalisation of relations with all Arab states.

Israel, while generally welcoming the initiative, has expressed reservations, specifically regarding a clause demanding Palestinian refugees and their descendants be allowed to return to their homes in what is now Israel, which they fled during the 1948-49 Arab-Israeli war.

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