Olmert's post-holiday focus on coalition, Russia trip

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October 15, 2006 00:42

PM leaves for Russia on Tuesday to meet Putin; talks likely to focus on Iran.

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Olmert's post-holiday focus on coalition, Russia trip

Olmert speaks 298.88. (photo credit: AP [file])

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert returns to work Sunday, after spending most of Succot away from his office, and will be focused more on political - rather than diplomatic - matters, according to sources in his office. For instance, despite much talk about the need for a meeting with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, no date for such a meeting has yet been set. With the Knesset's winter session to open Monday, Olmert will be concentrating on his efforts to pull Avigdor Lieberman's Israel Beiteinu Party into the government without triggering a full-blown coalition crisis with the Labor Party, which opposes such a move. The issue is likely to be a topic of discussion among the cabinet ministers when they meet Sunday for their weekly cabinet meeting. The ministers are expected to hear a security briefing regarding the situation in Lebanon and Gaza. While Olmert is primarily concentrating on political issues, he will be traveling to Russia on Tuesday for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin that are expected to focus on the Iranian nuclear issue, as well as on Israel's complaints that advanced Russian arms found their way into Hizbullah's hands during the recent war in Lebanon. He is scheduled to return to Israel on Thursday. The visit will be Olmert's first to Russia as prime minister, and will also mark 15 years since the reestablishment of diplomatic ties with Moscow. One diplomatic source said that even though Israel and Russia do not see eye to eye on all issues, there is no comparison between the former Soviet Union's anti-Israel role in the Middle East, and the more balanced approach taken by the current Russian leadership. "We many not agree on everything, but nobody can deny the dramatic change that has taken place," the official said. Olmert is also expected to meet with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, and members of the local Jewish community in Moscow.


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