Abbas meets Olmert before seeking foreign support

(Adds attack on Nablus governor, paragraph 14)

JERUSALEM, April 13 (Reuters) - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas held a hastily arranged meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem on Sunday ahead of a tour that will take him to Moscow and Washington.

There was little sign of movement in the peace negotiations the two leaders began under the auspices of President George W. Bush, who will meet Abbas at the White House around April 24 before himself visiting Israel early next month.

Officials said the Abbas-Olmert meeting, their second in less than a week, was arranged in haste to allow discussion before Abbas begins his tour.

An aide to Abbas, Saeb Erekat, told reporters afterwards that the two had reviewed the state of negotiations. Abbas also urged Olmert to cooperate with Egyptian efforts to consolidate a shaky truce in the Gaza Strip between Israeli forces and Islamist militants from Hamas.

Though Abbas's secular Fatah movement has been deeply at odds with Hamas since the Islamists seized control of the enclave last year, Erekat said he wanted to avoid a "humanitarian disaster".

Aides to Olmert declined official comment. One senior Israeli official said only that the talks were "serious".

An Israeli official said Olmert wanted to "increase the level of cooperation and coordination before Abbas visits Washington". A senior Abbas aide said he believed Olmert wanted to try to improve the mood around the negotiations after a less than positive meeting last week.


Negotiations on issues at the heart of the conflict have shown little outward sign of progress since talks were renewed at a U.S.-hosted conference in Annapolis, Maryland, in November.

The negotiations have been bogged down by differences over Israeli West Bank settlement building and violence in Gaza.

Both sides are trying to meet a U.S. goal of a deal on Palestinian statehood before Bush leaves office in January, but differences remain over what that accord might entail.

Erekat said after the last Abbas-Olmert meeting that differences ran "very deep" over building in Jewish settlements, especially around Jerusalem. Israeli officials said the leaders had agreed not to let that disrupt the negotiations.

Abbas last month briefly suspended the talks after an Israeli offensive killed more than 120 people in Gaza. Israel said it was responding to rockets fired into its territory.

Two Hamas militants were killed in Gaza on Sunday by an explosion that residents said may have been accidental.

In the West Bank, the governor of Nablus, a close Abbas confidant, was attacked by gunmen whom officials said belonged to the Islamic Jihad group. Jamal al-Mouhsen was not hurt, but his car was torched and he had to be escorted to safety.

Gaza's 1.5 million people were still short of fuel on Sunday, four days after militants attacked the terminal in Israel from which fuel is pumped to Gaza. Western officials confirmed Israeli statements that some two days' supply of gasoline and diesel were lying untapped in tanks in Gaza.

Hamas said Israel was causing a fuel crisis, while Israel accuses the Islamists of engineering shortages. Palestinian fuel distributors said they were on strike in protest at Israeli limits on their imports of fuel, and denied any Hamas role. (Additional reporting by Wafa Amr in Ramallah and Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza, Writing by Adam Entous and Alastair Macdonald, editing by Tim Pearce)