June 4th, 2008 16:02 EST
Lame Duck Bush to meet with scandal-besieged Olmert
U.S. President George Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert are to meet Wednesday in Washington, amid uncertainty about Mr. Olmert`s political future due to a corruption scandal at home.
The two leaders are expected to discuss Iran`s controversial nuclear program and advancing Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.
A U.S. military aid package that includes an advanced missile defense system and new warplanes for Israel also may be discussed.
Israeli and Palestinian officials have vowed to strike a peace deal before President Bush leaves office early next year.
In the West Bank town of Ramallah, top Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Qureia said today that reaching a peace agreement with Israel before Mr. Bush leaves office will take a "miracle."
He said there is still room for progress in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
In Washington Tuesday, Mr. Olmert reiterated his support for reaching a peace deal with the Palestinians before the end of the year, during an address to the pro-Israel lobby group, AIPAC.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who also addressed the AIPAC meeting Tuesday, said the Bush administration still believes there is a chance to reach a deal on what she called the "basic contours of a peaceful Palestinian state." But she called it an "ambitious" goal that might slip to the next U.S. administration.
Meanwhile, Mr. Olmert`s U.S. visit is being overshadowed in Israel by growing calls for his resignation from coalition allies and opponents, following allegations that he received bribes from Morris Talansky, a U.S. businessman.
Mr. Olmert has denied the allegations. The Israeli leader also has rejected the resignation calls but has promised to step down if indicted.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.