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Reorganized Israeli Cabinet Includes Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, has presented his new government to parliament. His reorganized Cabinet includes his long-time Likud Party political rival, Benjamin Netanyahu as Finance Minister, although Mr. Netanyahu, initially turned down the post on Wednesday.

At the parliamentary session to swear in his new coalition Thursday, Mr. Sharon said the first priority of the government will be to rebuild the nation's ailing economy.

He said tackling the country's economic woes will require "hard decisions."

The man charged with the difficult task is Benjamin Netanyahu, who has become the new Finance Minister.

He initially refused the offer to move from the foreign ministry. Israeli media reported that he finally accepted the post after being given greater powers, including responsibility for government corporations and the right to determine who will become head of the central bank.

Financial markets responded positively to the appointment of Mr. Netanyahu. Israeli stocks and the shekel, the local currency, both rose on the news.

Mr. Netanyahu replaces Silvan Shalom, who has been held responsible for failing to turn around the Israeli economy. Mr. Shalom replaces Mr. Netanyahu as Foreign Minister.

The Israeli economy has been plunged into recession during more than two-years of bloody conflict with the Palestinians.

On the issue of the violence, Mr. Sharon said his government's policy would be based on a speech he made in December.

In that address, Mr. Sharon outlined support for President's Bush June speech on the Middle East, which advocated a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Mr. Sharon took about a month after his landslide victory in national elections to piece together a majority coalition of 68 lawmakers in the 120-member Israeli parliament.

The coalition includes four parties, Sharon's Likud bloc, the rightist National Union, the National Religious Party and the centrist Shinui Party.