April 18, 2007 / 2:26 PM / 12 years ago

Olmert: not prepared to "pay any price" for soldier

(Adds quotes from parliamentary briefing)

JERUSALEM, April 18 (Reuters) - Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Wednesday Israel was not prepared to meet all of the demands of Palestinian militants to secure the release of a captive Israeli soldier.

Hamas, which leads the Palestinian government, has handed over the names of Palestinian prisoners it wants Israel to free in exchange for soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been held by militants in Gaza for 10 months.

"The list is disappointing and creates expectations that are impossible to live up to," Olmert told a parliamentary committee at a closed-door hearing, according to a parliamentary official.

"It has to be within proper proportions," Olmert said of the list, which reportedly includes up to 1,400 Palestinian prisoners.

Israeli media quoted Olmert as saying: "Israel cannot pay any price asked by (soldier) Gilad Shalit’s captors". He did not say what he would consider an appropriate exchange.

Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas said on Monday that Marwan Barghouthi, a Palestinian uprising leader, was on the list.

But his comments contradicted those of Deputy Prime Minister Azzam al-Ahmad of secular Fatah, who said Barghouthi, a Fatah member seen as a possible successor to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, had been left off the roster.

Olmert said "No" when asked in a recent newspaper interview whether Barghouthi should expect an early release as part of a prisoner exchange.

Freedom for prisoners in Israeli jails is a highly emotive issue for Palestinians.

Many Israelis oppose early releases for Palestinians convicted of involvement in shootings and bombings.

"Our commitment is to operate according to our needs and not just based on our emotions," Olmert said.



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