June 16, 2007 / 9:50 PM / 10 years ago

Olmert: New Palestinian government a peace partner

BEN-GURION AIRPORT, Israel (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Saturday that a new emergency Palestinian government due to be sworn in on Sunday would be a partner for peace in negotiations.

"A government that is not a Hamas government is a partner (for peace)," Olmert told reporters.

Olmert was speaking on his plane just before taking off for the United States on a three-day visit when he is due to meet President George W. Bush and other senior officials and with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who leads the secular Fatah faction, is set to swear in an emergency government on Sunday that will bring an end to a U.S.-led aid embargo after he dismissed the previous government led by Islamist group Hamas.

Hamas routed their secular Fatah rivals in days of bloody civil war in the Gaza Strip and began imposing a new order in the enclave.

Fatah remains in control of the West Bank and Abbas is based in Ramallah, the Palestinians' administrative centre.

Olmert said that the new government to be led by Prime Minister-designate Salam Fayyad could be a partner for peace negotiations.

"(The current situation) presents an opportunity that has not existed for a long time ... This opens opportunities," Olmert said.

He added that he intended to "work vigorously to take advantage" of the situation.

Olmert said that the situation in the Palestinian territories had "become clearer" and that it would be "advantageous" for the Palestinians because Hamas was no longer a member of the government.

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