US backs Israel on Middle East talks

President George W. Bush has promised Israel the US would boycott a new Palestinian unity government that failed to recognise it, renounce violence and accept existing agreements, Ehud Olmert, Israeli prime minister, said on Sunday.

Mr Olmert told a cabinet meeting he had received the assurance from Mr Bush by telephone on Friday. “The American and Israeli positions are totally identical on this issue,” he said.

The US pledge narrowed the prospects of a new government, in which Hamas and Fatah would share power, securing international recognition.

It also further lowered expectations for talks that Condoleezza Rice, US secretary of state, is to hold in Jerusalem on Monday with Mr Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority’s Fatah president.

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