Beirut rejects Olmert peace deal call

Fouad Siniora, the Lebanese prime minister, has rejected a public appeal from his Israeli counterpart to open peace negotiations.

    Olmert has faced criticism following the Lebanon conflict

    Ehud Olmert said at the opening of the Israeli parliament's winter session: "I want to take this opportunity to call on Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora to meet with me face-to-face ...

    to bring peace to our peoples."

    However, Siniora rebuffed the offer, saying in a satement: "Lebanon will be the last Arab country to sign a peace deal with Israel.

    "Real peace resides in Israel accepting the Arab peace initiative, promoted at the time by prince [now King] Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and agreed to at the Arab League summit held in Beirut."

    In September, after the end of a 34-day war between Israel and Hezbollah fighters, Olmert said he had made numerous unsuccessful offers to Siniora to talk peace.

    Siniora's office said at the time that no such invitations had arrived and that they would be rejected anyway.

    Palestinian talks

    Israel and Lebanon have not had official relations since the establishment of the Jewish state in 1948.

    Olmert also said he was ready to meet Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, to discuss the stalled Middle East peace process.

    "I am ready to meet with him immediately if he wants to talk about the roadmap," Olmert told the Knesset on Monday.

    He was referring to a peace roadmap drafted by the quartet of the US, EU, Russia and UN that envisions an independent Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace with Israel.

    Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian negotiator, said "every effort" is being made to bring about a meeting between Olmert and Abbas but said no date has been set.

    "We hope that both sides can begin to implement the road map, reaching the two-state solution," he said.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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