Monday, February 23, 2009 
12:26  Mecca time, 09:26  GMT     
News Middle East  
Israeli truce talks envoy replaced   
Netanyahu, right, said political differences could
be 'overcome with good will' [AFP]    Ehud Olmert, the outgoing Israeli prime 
minister, has removed his chief envoy to Egyptian-brokered Gaza ceasefire talks.
Amos Gilad, an aide to Ehud Barak, the Israeli defence minister, was
replaced on Monday after criticising Olmert's "inconsistent" approach
to the truce negotiations. Gilad went on to describe the Olmert government's 
handling of the talks as "insulting" to the Egyptians.
Olmert's office said he no longer had confidence in Gilad and that
the government would continue with the Cairo talks through a different
The defence
ministry has yet to comment on Gilad's replacement as envoy, but the
incident has served to highlight tensions betweeen Olmert and Barak in
the run-up to coalition negotiations.
Coalition talks
Benyamin Netanyahu, leader of the Likud party, held talks with his
rival Tzipi Livni, the Kadima chief, on Sunday to discuss forming a
coalition government.
Netanyahu said he and Livni found points of agreement and that disagreements 
could be "overcome with goodwill".
"I believe this is the will of the people and I think we all have to
listen to the voices coming from the people asking for unity at this
time," Netanyahu said.
Lieberman, left, said US-Israel ties will be 'positive' with Netanyahu as PM 
"In the end, national sense of responsibility will prevail and we
will find a way to join hands for the good of the state of Israel."
Livni said the two were still at odds regarding talks with the
Palestinians, insisting that negotiations with the Palestinian
Authority, aimed at formally creating a Palestinian state, must
"I see my duty to make sure I hold fast to those principles I
presented to the voters and asked for their trust, in this process of
forming coalitions as well.
"Therefore this is not a matter of
just wording, it's a matter of substance. We did not make progress on
that and therefore at Netanyahu's request we will meet again but this
evening did not yield any progress on substance and so we are still
apart," she said.
While Livni supports the formation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, 
Netanyahu does not.
Livni's Kadima won a narrow one-seat victory over Likud in the
election, taking 28 of the 120 seats in the Israeli Knesset, or
Majority support
Shimon Peres, the president, invited Netanyahu to form the next
government because he appeared to have the support of a majority of the
elected legislators.
Netanyahu, a former prime minister, has six weeks to form the
government and he is expected to offer Kadima a generous coalition deal
that includes Livni remaining in her position as foreign minister.
Alternatively, he could form a narrow coalition with relative ease, giving him 
65 seats in the 120-seat parliament.
This would, though, grant his smaller coalition partners veto power
over major decisions, which could bring down the government in cases of
 Source: Agencies   
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