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Olmert heads to Japan with eye to boosting trade

Haaretz, Israel

Olmert heads to Japan with eye to boosting trade

By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent, and Haaretz Service

24 February 2008

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is to leave Sunday on a four-day trip to Japan, with an eye to boosting bilateral trade.

Olmert, accompanied by some 20 business people, is expected to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Japanese prime minister. Israel is seeking a Japanese commitment for direct flights from Tokyo, which Japan has rejected over the years, and a free-trade agreement.

Japan wants to promote the joint Israel-Jordanian-Japanese-Palestinian "peace corridor" in the Jericho area.

Haaretz reported last week that Olmert is also expected to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during the visit. Rice, who asked for the meeting, is said to be concerned over the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip. At the meeting, Olmert is expected to update Rice on his peace talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The Japan trip is the first by a high-ranking Israeli official since the assassination of Hezbollah No. 2 Imad Mughniyah almost two weeks ago. Army Radio reported that the Japanese security services have bolstered police numbers in Tokyo by ten thousand for the duration of the visit.