Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas will meet early next week, for the first time since the Sharm el-Sheikh summit, according to a political source in Jerusalem.

The source said that the two leaders' aides met last week and began preparing for the upcoming meeting.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will travel to the region at the beginning of next week for a visit previously delayed because of the political crisis in Israel and the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip. Rice will meet with Olmert and Abbas, and take part in a meeting of ministers from the international Quartet of peacemakers for the Middle East.

It remains unclear whether this meeting will be attended by the Quartet's new envoy to the region, Tony Blair.

Italy's Prime Minister, Romano Prodi, is scheduled to arrive today for a visit to Israel and the PA. This evening, Prodi will dine with Olmert privately, ahead of the formal part of his visit.