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(photo credit: NATO [file])
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is scheduled to meet Wednesday with Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni for what have been characterized as "security discussions," and which are expected to focus on Iran and the prospect it will soon open its first nuclear plant.
The discussions come amid reports that Iran's nuclear plant at Bushehr, built by Russia, will be ready by the end of the year. Iran agreed to return spent nuclear fuel from the plant to Russia to ensure it does not extract materials that could be used in producing nuclear arms, but there are doubts in Jerusalem about the effectiveness of this type of agreement.
Sources in the Prime Minister's Office, however, said it would be a mistake to read too much drama into the meeting, since Wednesdays are generally dedicated to security discussions and the security cabinet.
Barak, in addition to meeting with Olmert - who lashed out at him at Sunday's cabinet meeting as someone who has consistently undermined the coalition's guidelines - is also scheduled to meet Wednesday with US General James Jones, who is continuing his efforts to produce a document that would spell out the security requirements the US believed would need to be put into place to ensure Israel's security after the establishment of a Palestinian state.
Among the issues Jones is believed to be dealing with are the degree to which the Palestinian state should be de-militarized, the size of the future Palestinian security apparatus, and the nature and location of early-warning systems for Israel.
Jones arrived on Monday for a three-day visit. On Tuesday he met with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who said that from Israel's point of view any agreement with the Palestinians needed to improve Israel's security situation, not harm it. "If the agreement isn't anchored in our security [needs], then there won't be an agreement," Livni told Jones, according to a statement put out by her office.
In a related development, the Prime Minister's Office declined to comment on reports that a committee of four ministers drawing up a list of prisoners to be released in exchange for kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit has presented a list of 450 names to Olmert. Defense Ministry officials, however, said that the list was still being drawn up.
Hamas is reportedly demanding that some 1,000 - 1,500 prisoners be released in exchange for Schalit.
The ministers' committee, headed by Vice Premier Haim Ramon, met Sunday for an unannounced meeting. The other members of the committee are Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter, Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann and Minister without Portfolio Ami Ayalon.