Olmert, Abbas and negotiating teams to meet

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JERUSALEM, Sep 30 (Reuters) Israel said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and their negotiating teams will meet on Tuesday to try to narrow differences over a US-led conference on Palestinian statehood.

Israeli government spokesman David Baker today said the Olmert-Abbas meeting would be held in the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem.

Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams will also hold their first formal meeting on Tuesday. Baker said the teams will work on a ''joint statement to be presented at the conclusion of the upcoming international meeting''.

Olmert is seeking a broadbrush joint statement for the conference planned for mid-to-late November. Abbas wants an explicit ''framework'' agreement with a timeline for implementation.

It is unclear to what extent Olmert is prepared to meet Abbas' appeal to delve deeply into the ''final-status'' issues key to the establishment of a Palestinian state -- borders, the future of Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees.

Olmert has been weakened politically since last year's war in Lebanon, raising doubts among Israelis and Palestinians over his ability to deliver on any peace promises.

Abbas also wields limited power following Hamas's takeover of the Gaza Strip in June. Israel has said it plans to release 87 Palestinian prisoners tomorrow as a goodwill gesture to Abbas.

Olmert and Abbas have been meeting regularly since June as part of a US-led campaign to shore up the Fatah leader in the occupied West Bank and to isolate Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The leaders will sit in a Sukkah, an outdoor enclosure partially open to the sky which observant Jews use for meals during the weeklong Sukkoth festival.

A Sukkah is a three-sided enclosure with a roof traditionally made of a leafy covering used to commemorate the biblical story of how Jews came to the Holy Land from Egypt after a 40-year desert sojourn.


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