Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says he is ready to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss the stalled Middle East peace process.
In a joint news conference with visiting British Prime Minister Tony Blair Saturday, Mr. Olmert said he was dedicated to advancing the Middle East peace process, starting with dismantling terrorist organizations and their infrastructure.
He said, however, no progress can be made until an Israeli soldier captured by Hamas militants near the Gaza border in June is released. Mr. Blair said it was easy to be pessimistic in light of the recent violence, but he said he believes it is possible for the region to become more stable and democratic, with people living side by side in peace.
He spoke Saturday at the beginning of his newly launched peace mission to the Middle East. Mr. Blair will also visit the West Bank for talks with moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Regarding Iran's nuclear program, the British prime minister said the two leaders agreed Tehran must not be allowed to obtain an atomic weapon.
Israel hs grown increasingly alarmed about Iran's nuclear program since last October, when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad threatened to wipe the Jewish state "off the map."