The Prime Minister's Office on Tuesday barred Haaretz's London correspondent, Anshel Pfeffer, from attending a briefing with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert held in the British capital because of an opinion piece he wrote in 2001 that criticized the politician when he was Jerusalem's mayor.

The article, which appeared in Jerualem weekly Kol Ha'ir weekly in 2001, tied Olmert to the Versailles hall disaster in which 23 people were killed and dozens injured when the floor of the building where a wedding was being held collapsed.

"We did not know he was a journalist for Haaretz and we have no intention of disrespecting the newspaper," the PMO responded yesterday. "However, the person involved published a front-page piece which read 'Olmert's hands are covered with the blood of the [Versailles hall] victims.' Pfeffer was initially invited to take part in the briefing held for Israeli journalists, but PMO officials later withdrew the invitation. Yesterday Pfeffer was not allowed into the Israeli embassy where the event was held.

The PMO added: "It goes without saying that none of the committees formed [to investigate the disaster] have ever shown any link between Olmert and the disaster, and the reporter has never apologized for his incitement. We stress that the reporter is treated like any other when he contacts our spokesman as an official representative of the paper. But when the prime minister invites a limited number of journalists for a briefing, he does not have to meet with someone who incites against him in such a way."