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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Israel is continuing in its efforts to attain the release of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, despite the "irresponsible" leaks from people involved in the negotiations, outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Tuesday.
Olmert's remarks were seen as a semi-veiled attack against ousted Defense Ministry official Amos Gilad, who had served as the lead negotiator with Egyptian mediators in securing a cease-fire with Hamas. He was ousted on Monday after he publicly criticized the prime minister's stance on the on-again off-again negotiations.
"We are making efforts through channels - some have been publicized through irresponsible people - to bring him back alive and healthy to his family, friends and the Israeli people," Olmert said in an address to the Jewish Agency's Board of Governors meeting in Jerusalem.
Olmert added that he could not speak freely of the efforts Israel was making to secure the soldier's release, noting that it was neither helpful nor responsible to go into details.
"There are some chances it will move forward," he said of the negotiations, adding, however, that he did not know how long they would take or whether Schalit would be freed before he ends his term.
Amid charges by some that the suspension of Gilad has harmed efforts to free Schalit, the Prime Minister's Office released a statement saying that Gilad never dealt with Schalit nor was authorized to do so, and that all contacts related to Schalit were coordinated and carried out through Ofer Dekel.
The statement said that Gilad's suspension will have no impact on efforts to release Schalit, efforts that are continuing uninterrupted.
While Dekel will carry on dealing with the Schalit case, it was not yet clear Tuesday who would replace Gilad in the negotiations with the Egyptians over securing quiet in the South.
Meanwhile, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) head Yuval Diskin and Olmert's foreign policy adviser Shalom Turgeman are widely expected to be involved. Turgeman often accompanied Gilad on his numerous trips to Cairo for talks with Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman.