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Olmert Announces Labor as Senior Coalition Partner
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Israeli Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced on Tuesday afternoon that his centrist Kadima party would seek to form a coalition government with the Labor party as a senior partner.

Olmert, who heads the Kadima party, made the announcement at a joint press conference with Labor Chairman Amir Peretz after the two leaders completed a meeting earlier on Tuesday.

"We are happy to announce that immediately after the president gives me the mission of putting together a government, we will open coalition talks that will allow us to form a government in which the Labor Party will be a senior member," said Olmert, whose Kadima won 29 seats in last week's poll.

Peretz said that in order to speed up the process, he would ask President Moshe Katsav to entrust Olmert to form the next government.

Peretz's Labor party collected 19 seats in the new Knesset of 120 members.

The announcement also indicated that a rift between the two biggest parties have been sealed following last Tuesday's election.

However, Olmert and Peretz did not mention the allocation of portfolios among the parties, because President Katsav has not yet officially ordered Olmert to establish the coalition.

Olmert told Kadima members on Monday that in order to include Labor in the coalition, Kadima must give them either the finance or defense portfolio.

(Xinhua News Agency April 5, 2006)

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