Merkel to meet Olmert, Abbas on Mideast tour

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will meet Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during a visit to the Middle East that will give her a chance to assess the new Palestinian government, Merkel's spokesman said Wednesday. Merkel will visit Jordan, Israel, the PA territories and Lebanon during her trip between March 31 and April 2, and plans to meet with Jordan's King Abdullah II and Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora. Following the formation of a PA unity government between the Fatah and Hamas, "the chancellor wants to gain an initial picture of the work of this government, particularly regarding the question of whether and to what extent the criteria of the international Middle East Quartet are being fulfilled," Wilhelm said. Germany currently holds the European Union presidency.