Israel PM denies prisoner exchange deal with Palestinian militants

Israel PM denies prisoner exchange deal with Palestinian militants

[JURIST] Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert [official website; BBC profile] denied rumors Monday that a deal was underway to trade Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Cpl. Gilad Shalit [Wikipedia backgrounder], an Israeli soldier held by Palestinian militants since June 25 [JURIST report]. In a speech to parliament's foreign affairs and defense committee, Olmert said he heard of the negotiations from the press. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak [official profile; BBC profile] has said that negotiations were ongoing [JURIST report], but that no progress had been made. AP has more.

In related news, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan [official profile; JURIST news archive] announced Monday that Hezbollah and Israel have agreed to closed-door UN-led mediation to secure the release of the two captured Israeli soldiers whose July kidnapping sparked the latest round of violence in the region [JURIST news archive]. While Olmert's office has yet to comment, Israeli political sources deny the agreement had been reached [Reuters report]. BBC News has more.