PRIME Minister Yitzhak Shamir will speak to the leader of Israel's closest ally for the first time in 10 months when he meets President Bush Dec. 11. Mr. Bush's invitation Tuesday was apparently aimed at easing the strains caused by Mr. Shamir's refusal in March to accept United States proposals for peace talks with Palestinians, said Israeli spokesman Avi Pazner.
The leaders have corresponded but not spoken since a phone call last February. Meanwhile, Bush has talked regularly to his Arab allies in the Gulf crisis - states officially at war with Israel despite a lack of hostilities.
``I think President Bush is interested in opening a fresh page,'' said Mr. Pazner, Shamir's senior adviser. ``I think there is interest from the American side to halt speculation about the worsening of the relationship - and to invite Shamir is the normal thing to do.''
Pazner dismissed Israeli press speculation that the invitation was Israel's reward for not complaining too loudly about a US-Syrian summit meeting last week.
Bush met President Hafez al-Assad of Syria, Israel's arch-enemy, for talks on maintaining an Arab-American alliance against Iraq. President Saddam Hussein triggered the Gulf crisis by seizing Kuwait Aug. 2.