Netanyahu gets extension on government
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel's right-wing Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu won a two-week extension on Friday to form a government, an aide said, allowing for further efforts to woo centre-left Labour to join his coalition.
President Shimon Peres tasked Netanyahu's Likud party with forming a government after a February 10 election, with 28 working days in which to court potential coalition partners. The extension sets April 3 as his new deadline.
A Netanyahu aide said that though he was nearing alliances with rightist factions that would let him control 61 of parliament's 120 seats, the Likud leader had asked Peres for more time "because he wants to build as broad a coalition as possible." Peres granted the request in talks with Netanyahu.
Labour's leader, outgoing Defence Minister Ehud Barak, a former military chief, has said he would ask the party's decision-making body for a mandate to join Netanyahu's government, which was expected to vote on the motion next week.
Joining Netanyahu's coalition could rescue Labour from threatened political obscurity.
Once Israel's dominant party, Labour came in fourth in a February election, winning just 13 seats. Likud won 27 and centrist Kadima of outgoing Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni polled 28 seats, while far-right Yisrael Beitenu won 15.
Livni has so far ruled out a Kadima alliance with Likud.
Barak told Israel Radio on Thursday that Netanyahu's overtures "deserve to be considered." He suggested Labour could soften Netanyahu's hardline team and avoid conflict with U.S. efforts to resume Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
(Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan)
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