Monday, September 25, 2006

Olmert denies report he met Saudi King Abdullah

Pirme Minister Ehud Olmert, responding to reports he had secretly met with a senior Saudi Arabian figure earlier this month, was quoted as saying Monday that "I did not meet with the Saudi king and I did not meet with any element which should have caused a sensation in the press."

Earlier in the day, however, officials in Jerusalem had said that Olmert met on September 13 with a senior Saudi Arabian official they declined to identify.

The officials confirmed a report in Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper that said Olmert had held talks with a Saudi Arabian leader, but they did not identify him.

The newspaper said that some of the unnamed Israeli officials who had served as sources for the report said that Olmert had met with King Abdullah, and others hinted the talks were with a senior official close to the king.

Later on Monday, however, the Ynet Website, which is owned by Yedioth, quoted an interview with Olmert, in which he denied the initial report.

Saudi Arabia was a moving force behind a 2002 Arab peace initiative cited in a document providing the basis for a unity government that rival Palestinian factions have been trying to form.

According to the newspaper, the peace plan was a main item on the agenda of the Israeli-Saudi talks 12 days ago, along with Iran's nuclear program and achieving peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Yedioth first reported last week that Israel and Saudi Arabia had been holding secret talks since fighting erupted in July between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The newspaper said that that talks were due to Saudi Arabia's realization that Iran - which backs and funds Hezbollah - was capable of destabilizing the Middle East.

According to Yedioth, the secret talks 12 days ago focused on Iran's nuclear program and achieving peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

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