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Netanyahu, Barak draft Israel coalition pact-radio

Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak initialled a pact on Tuesday that would unite their Likud and Labour parties in Israel's next government, a Labour official said.

world Updated: Mar 24, 2009 13:45 IST

Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak initialled a pact on Tuesday that would unite their Likud and Labour parties in Israel's next government, a Labour official said.

The official, Shalom Simchon, told reporters that under the deal, the Likud-led administration would respect all of Israel's international agreements, an indirect reference to interim peace accords it has signed with the Palestinians.

The preliminary coalition deal awaited ratification in an afternoon vote by centre-left Labour's executive, many of whose members oppose playing junior partner to the rightist Likud given its limited interest in peace talks with the Palestinians.

Under the agreement, Barak would remain defence minister, media reports said.

Netanyahu has already found allies in the ultranationalist Yisrael Beitenu party and the Orthodox Jewish party Shas, but wants to avoid establishing a narrow right-wing government that might put him on a collision course with U.S. President Barack Obama, who has vowed to shepherd the Palestinian track forward.

With Labour's support, Netanyahu would have 66 seats in the 120-member parliament.

(Writing by Dan Williams, Editing by Jeffrey Heller)