Olmert Ready to Close Deal with Palestinians

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JERUSALEM, Israel - Outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he's ready to sign a peace deal with the Palestinians.

"In principle there is nothing to prevent us from reaching an agreement on the core issues in the near future," Olmert told Israeli reporters upon returning from his last official visit to Washington.

"I believe it is possible. I believe it is timely. A declaration is needed. I am ready to make it. I hope the other side is," he said.

Olmert, who resigned from office in September under a cloud of criminal investigations, heads a caretaker government, pending elections on February 10.

Despite written advisement by the State Attorney's office to refrain from major policy decisions and his single-digit approval ratings, the outgoing prime minister continues to push his agenda forward.

Earlier in the week, Kadima officials accused Olmert of undermining the party's bid in the upcoming general elections, which the polls seem to confirm.

The most recent survey, broadcast Tuesday evening on Israel's Channel 1, showed Likud party chairman Binyamin Netanyahu continuing to widen his lead over Foreign Minister and Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni.

Sources: The Jerusalem Post, YNet news

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