Israeli President asks Netanyahu to form new government (Second Lead)

February 20th, 2009 - 9:57 pm ICT by IANS  

Jerusalem, Feb 20 (DPA) Israel’s President Shimon Peres tasked Benjamin Netanyahu Friday with forming a new government, ending speculation which had persisted since Israel’s inconclusive general election last week.
Although Netanyahu’s hardline Likud Party had won only 27 of the 120 Knesset seats (Israeli parliament) at stake in the election, one fewer than won by the centrist Kadima party of Tzipi Livni, he is seen as having the best chances of forming a governing coalition.

Consultations Peres had held with Knesset factions after the Feb 10 elections revealed that Netanyahu was recommended for the premiership by parties with a total of 65 legislators.

Livni, on the other hand, was endorsed only by the 28 Kadima legislators, after left-wing and Arab-Israeli factions told Peres they were not recommending anyone for the premiership.

Under Israeli law, Netanyahu has 28 days in which to form a coalition, although he can ask the president for a 14-day extension if needed.

Netanyahu has earlier said he was ready to form a coalition with the centrist Kadima party of his main rival Tzipi Livni.

Netanyahu was speaking after a meeting with Peres in an effort to build a grand coalition. Peres also met Friday with Livni, who was quoted by Haaretz newspaper as saying she did not rule out joining a Netanyahu-led coalition.

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