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Olmert ready for final-status talks

Ehud Olmert said he was ready to take steps toward final-status negotiations with the Palestinians. “We have to have the groundwork that will enable us to start, soon I hope, negotiations for a Palestinian state,” the Israeli prime minister said Tuesday at a White House session with President Bush. Olmert said he looks forward to meeting soon with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. He offered to do so in Palestinian territory in Jericho, the first time an Israeli prime minister would make such a trip. The Bush administration wants to accelerate final-status talks now that Abbas has separated himself from Hamas in the wake of Hamas’ routing of forces loyal to Abbas from the Gaza Strip. “We want to have a vision for the Palestinians to see that there’s a better tomorrow for them,” Bush said at the meeting in the Oval Office.