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Last Updated: Monday, 25 September 2006, 11:22 GMT 12:22 UK
Israel 'holds secret Saudi talks'
Ehud Olmert
Mr Olmert has not explicitly acknowledged the meeting
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has held an unprecedented meeting with a senior member of the Saudi royal family, Israeli officials say.

The meeting 12 days ago has not been confirmed by Saudi Arabia, which has no official contacts with Israel.

Israeli media say they discussed Iran's nuclear programme and a Saudi peace plan adopted by Arab states in 2002.

Last week Mr Olmert voiced approval of recent Saudi moves, "both those made publicly and others as well".

In the same interview, with Yediot Aharonot newspaper, Mr Olmert declined to answer whether he had met senior Saudis, saying: "I don't have to answer every question."

But he did praise Saudi ruler King Abdullah's "wisdom and sense of responsibility".

I did not meet with any element that should have caused a media sensation
Ehud Olmert
The secret meeting is widely reported in Monday's Israeli newspapers and radio bulletins, quoting Israeli officials.

Although no public statement have been issued, a senior government official was quoted by the Associated Press news agency saying Mr Olmert had not met King Abdullah.

Shortly afterwards, Yediot's website published a carefully worded denial by Mr Olmert himself, saying: "I did not meet the Saudi king and I did not meet with any element that should have caused a media sensation."

Election pledge

Yediot said the reported meeting had the backing of Israel's main ally, the US, which is also a strong supporter of oil-rich Saudi Arabia royal family.

Saudi Arabia is the author of a plan which offers Israel diplomatic recognition from all Arab states in return for a complete withdrawal from the territory occupied by Israel in 1967, and a negotiated solution to the 58-year Palestinian refugee issue.

Mr Olmert's Kadima party won Israeli elections in March with a pledge to withdraw unilaterally from parts of the occupied West Bank, while holding onto the settlement blocs where most Israeli settlers live.

The plan was shelved during the conflict this summer between Israel and Hezbollah militants in Lebanon.

Saudi Arabia was one of the countries calling for an immediate ceasefire in that conflict, but condemned Hezbollah's "reckless adventurism" for capturing two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid at the start of the conflict.

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