Peres, himself a former prime minister, told CNN's Late Edition programme he expected to run on the parliamentary list of Kadima, a party formed and led by the ailing prime minister, Ariel Sharon.

Newspaper polls published on Friday showed Kadima would easily win the general election even without Sharon, 77, whose brain haemorrhage has prompted a temporary transfer of powers to Olmert, his deputy.

With Sharon not expected to return to politics, the party must choose another leader.

Asked if he expected Olmert, 60, to lead the party into the elections, Peres, 82, who recently abandoned Israel's Labor party for Kadima, said: "The answer is clearly yes, positively yes."

He said he would probably run himself on Kadima's list for parliament, but would not challenge Olmert for the party leadership despite a poll showing the party might fare even better under Peres' leadership.