PM will reportedly free prisoners ahead of parley

Israeli newspapers say Olmert weighing Fayad's recent demand to release as many as 2,000 inmates.

pal prisoner 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
pal prisoner 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert plans an additional Palestinian prisoner release before a high-stakes Middle East peace summit in an effort to bolster Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Israeli papers reported on Monday. Olmert is examining a Palestinian request to free as many as 2,000 of the 12,000 Palestinian prisoners Israel holds, but has not decided how many people would be freed, or when, one report said. Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayad raised the demand in public for the first time in a weekend interview with The Associated Press. Fayad said it was time for Israel to make bold moves to reassure the Palestinian people it is serious about peace negotiations, and that a release of 2,000 prisoners ahead of the conference would help to boost trust. Another report said Israel would free several prisoners jailed for planning or carrying out attacks on Israelis. In the past, Israel has been reluctant to free such prisoners, but according to the report, the prisoners in question have already served dozens of years in jail. Asked to comment on the reports, government spokesman David Baker replied, "Israel received a request to release Palestinian prisoners and is considering it." The reports said Israel has discussed an additional prisoner release with aides to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is in the region this week to try to wrest progress on peace moves ahead of the peace summit, expected to take place in Annapolis, Maryland, in late November or early December. Israel has released some 340 Palestinian prisoners in recent months. Most are affiliated with Abbas's Fatah movement, and none belong to Hamas.