Olmert Won't Reserve No. 1 Spot for Sharon

Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has rejected the idea of placing Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at the top of Kadima's list for the 17th Knesset. The idea was raised yesterday by Reuven Adler, a close associate of Sharon.

Questioned on the matter last night, Olmert said he hoped Sharon would recover and be able to return to take the reins of Kadima ahead of the elections. If Sharon fails to recover before the date for submitting the party lists to the Central Elections Committee, it will be impossible to include the prime minister's name on the Knesset slate, Olmert added.

Olmert is supposed to complete Kadima's Knesset list by the end of the month.

Sources close to Olmert said yesterday that the acting prime minister may take a trip to Washington to meet with U.S. President George W. Bush in the coming weeks. Olmert has not received an official invitation from the White House, but his people have received hints that such an invitation may be forthcoming.

In any event, sources in Olmert's office said, the trip will take place only if there is a significant matter to discuss.

Olmert's election advisers believe a meeting with Bush could help to present the acting prime minister as a statesman, and boost his standing among the public ahead of the March ballot.

The advisers have also said Olmert may meet in the coming weeks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.