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News Brief


Ehud Olmert began an official visit to Germany.

The Israeli prime minister took off Sunday for Berlin, where he will make his second visit since taking office in 2006.

In two days of talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Horst Koehler, Olmert is expected to press for a tough European stand on Iran’s nuclear program. He also will visit sites of Jewish interest.

Germany’s intelligence services have tried to mediate a prisoner swap between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah, which is holding two Israeli soldiers hostage. It was not immediately clear if this would be on the agenda of Olmert’s visit.

The visit precedes an official trip by Merkel to Jerusalem in March in honor of Israel’s 60th anniversary. Merkel is due to address the Knesset, and the Israeli and German Cabinets will hold an unprecedented joint working meeting.

Merkel has indicated the wish to hold regular consultations with the Israeli government, as Germany already does with several European states.

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