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Olmert ‘not optimistic’ on Shalit

Ehud Olmert played down hopes that Israel will soon recover captive soldier Gilad Shalit from Gaza.

“Unfortunately, I cannot share the optimism regarding Gilad Shalit,” the Israeli prime minister said Sunday in a speech to American Jewish leaders in Jerusalem.

“It will take time. We are dealing with cruel people who have an entirely different set of values from our own.”

Olmert’s remarks ran counter to media reports suggesting that Israel and Hamas, which have been holding prisoner-swap talks via Egyptian mediators, are close to a deal.

Hamas has demanded that Israel free 1,400 jailed Palestinians, including major terrorists, as ransom for Shalit. The Olmert government at first ruled out any such exchange but has gradually relented.

According to Army Radio on Monday, Israel is now balking at only around 120 names on the release roster submitted by Hamas. Jerusalem officials had no immediate comment on the report.

Hamas-led gunmen abducted Shalit on the Gaza border in June 2006.

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