Peres to ask Netanyahu to form government in Israel (Lead)

February 20th, 2009 - 7:40 pm ICT by IANS  

Jerusalem, Feb 20 (DPA) Israel’s President Shimon Peres is to ask the head of the country’s right-wing Likud party, Benjamin Netanyahu, to form a government, an official said Friday.
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.

Netanyahu has the support of more of the Israeli parliament’s political factions than Livni, even though Likud won one seat fewer in the Feb 10 general election.

Both sides have claimed the right to form a government, but Thursday Netanyahu moved closer to being able to form a government after a key faction holding the balance of power in the Knesset (Israeli parliament) recommended that President Shimon Peres nominate him as premier.

The Yisrael Beteinu party’s recommendation means that the former premier now can count on the support of 65 legislators, enough to form a narrow coalition.

However Avigdor Lieberman, Yisrael Beteinu’s controversial leader, has said that Netanyahu should form a broad-based coalition.

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