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Olmert to Abbas: Scandal won’t stop talks

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Ehud Olmert promised Mahmoud Abbas that peace negotiations would continue despite an alleged bribery scandal.

The Israeli prime minister and the Palestinian Authority president met in Jerusalem Monday afternoon in a routine meeting as part of the ongoing peace negotiations. They were joined during the first hour by Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Palestinian chief negotiator Ahmed Qureia, and met alone for a second hour.

Some have called for Olmert’s ouster following relevations that he allegedly accepted $150,000 in cash handouts over a 15-year period from American businessman Morris Talansky.Olmert has promised to resign if he is indicted.

Responding to Abbas’ comments earlier in the day decrying Israel’s announcement that it would construct housing in two Jerusalem communities that Palestinians claim as part of a future state, Olmert said that construction would continue in Jewish neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem as well as in areas expected to remain part of Israel after a final agreement.

Olmert is scheduled to leave later Monday for Washington, where he will address the AIPAC annual policy conference’s gala dinner. During the five-day visit he is scheduled to meet with President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the two Democratic Party presidential contenders, Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

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