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Israeli Foreign Minister Begins Formation of New Government

Negotiations are underway in Israel to form a new government after the prime minister resigned. Robert Berger reports from the VOA bureau in Jerusalem.

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is holding consultations with various political parties as she begins the task of trying to form a new government. She has 42 days to do so. The process of forming a coalition began after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert submitted his resignation Sunday following a corruption scandal.

Livni was elected leader of the ruling Kadima party last week. Yohanan Plessner, who headed her election campaign, says she has a good chance to succeed.

"She is competent and she can bring across or deliver to the Israeli public and Israeli politics a new message of hope of a different kind of political conduct, which puts her in quite a good position to form a new government based on national interest considerations," Plessner said.

The biggest obstacle in Livni's path is the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, a key partner in the current coalition. Shas opposes Livni's plan to hand over parts of Jerusalem to the Palestinians under an emerging peace agreement.

"There seem to be differences of opinion with her prospective coalition partners on foreign policy, on the Palestinian issue, mainly on Jerusalem, so it is not going to be an easy job for her," said Zalman Shoval, who is with the opposition Likud party. "I think we will have early elections."

If Livni fails to form a government there will be early elections next year - probably in March.