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Israel's prime minister said on Tuesday he was not certain
Israel's prime minister said on Tuesday he was not certain that an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal would be possible by the end of 2008, as agreed on in the U.S. in November, the Haaretz newspaper said.

Speaking in Tokyo at a business conference during his first visit as premier to Japan, Ehud Olmert said, however, that Israel would make every effort to achieve a solution to the conflict, the paper said.

"We have the desire to reach an agreement within the year 2008," Olmert said, as quoted by the paper. "I am not sure we will make it, but we are determined to make a giant step forward to end this dispute once and for all."

Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas pledged at the U.S.-sponsored Middle East peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland, to reach a comprehensive peace agreement this year. Ongoing disputes over Israeli construction in east Jerusalem and the West Bank, and opposition within the Israeli government to plans to cede part of Jerusalem to the Palestinians have led to setbacks on the road to a peace deal.

Tel Aviv has also demanded that Islamic radicals, in control of the Gaza Strip since the violent conflict with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement in June 2007, halt rocket attacks on the Jewish state. The Palestinian enclave is currently the subject of an Israeli food and fuel blockade.

"These days we are making exceptional efforts to conclude all our differences with our neighbors and to resolve outstanding disputes," the newspaper quoted Olmert as saying in Tokyo.

Olmert and Abbas met last week, agreeing to step up the peace talks.

Olmert is also is due to meet U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Tokyo on Thursday to update her on the peace talks, the paper said.


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