PM goes to US to discuss convergence

Olmert, on first visit to US as PM, set to meet Bush, Cheney, Rice and Rumsfeld.

olmert thinking 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
olmert thinking 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's meetings with US President George W. Bush and top administration officials in Washington later this month will focus on his West Bank withdrawal plan and the latest developments regarding the Iranian nuclear threat, government officials said Monday. Olmert's four-day US trip will include a get-acquainted meeting with Bush at the White House on May 23, an address before a special joint session of Congress the next day, and meetings with Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. The meeting with Bush is intended to introduce the premier's convergence plan, in which Israel would withdraw from scores of isolated West Bank settlements while strengthening the major settlement blocs, and a series of follow-up meetings are planned with US officials on the issue, Olmert spokesman Assi Shariv said. "We do not expect to complete our discussions [with the Americans] on convergence during this trip," Shariv said, noting that then prime minister Ariel Sharon held a series of meetings with US officials about last summer's disengagement ahead of Bush's public endorsement of the move. Shariv said Olmert did not plan on asking the US administration for any financial support for the projected West Bank pullout on this trip. "You can be sure that this is not his last trip to the US," he said. Two of Olmert's aides, Dov Weisglass and Shalom Turjeman, who also served Sharon, are scheduled to travel to the US next week to lay the groundwork for Olmert's meetings. Olmert has repeatedly said he sought to draw the country's permanent borders in the coming years. After returning from the US, Olmert will travel to Egypt for meetings with President Hosni Mubarak and King Abdullah of Jordan, and he is expected to visit Britain and France next month. No meetings have been scheduled between Olmert and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. Palestinian officials have previously said that Abbas and Olmert would meet after the premier's visit to Washington, but Israeli officials have denied any such plans.