September 5, 2006

Olmert and Abbas to meet if soldier freed: Peres

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
will seek a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas if
gunmen in the Gaza Strip release a captive Israeli soldier,
Olmert's senior deputy said on Tuesday.

"When this situation is resolved, it (the meeting) will
take place," Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres told Israel's
Army Radio.

Talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been almost
completely stalled since the militant Islamic group Hamas took
over the Palestinian Authority in March, after defeating
Abbas's Fatah movement in elections in January.

The captured Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, was seized by a
group of Palestinian militants, including members of Hamas, on
June 25th after a raid into Israel from Gaza.

Since Shalit's capture, Israel has stepped up pressure on
militants in Gaza, carrying out a series of incursions into the
Gaza Strip, battling gunmen in the streets and targeting
suspected militant houses with air strikes.

At least 200 people, around half of them militants, have
been killed in the fighting.

Talks over releasing Shalit, including the possibility of a
prisoner swap, have gathered momentum in recent days, with
Abbas indicating in a newspaper interview on Tuesday that the
Israeli could be freed shortly.