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 Wednesday, 29 January, 2003, 01:50 GMT
Sharon's tough quest for unity


Going into this election, Ariel Sharon had two fundamental aims: the first was to retain power and the second was to build a stable, broad-based coalition.

His first aim - re-election - has been achieved and in itself, that is very impressive.

It is something that's eluded his three predecessors, and Ariel Sharon has done so by effectively showing that he has no rival as his country's last resort leader for tough times.

But Mr Sharon's second aim - a stable coalition - may be more difficult to accomplish.

Essentially, Ariel Sharon would like the Labour Party back inside his coalition.

Narrow path

During his first administration, Labour's participation gave Ariel Sharon's government a degree of international credibility and it effectively neutralised Labour as an opposition voice in Israel.

But the Labour leader, Amram Mitzna, says that he will not join a Sharon government, and that is a first blow to the Likud coalition-building efforts.

But it has not put off Ariel Sharon.

In his victory speech, he made it clear that he wanted all Zionist parties to join his government.

Talking about it is the easy bit.

But achieving it will be hard, and there is one thing Ariel Sharon does not want - a narrow, right-wing religious nationalist government.

That is what he ended up with going into this election, and that is what he wants to avoid going into his second administration.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Orla Guerin
"Victory as expected for Likud"
  Amram Mitzna, Labour leader
"We offer a way for hope.. the electorate have chosen a different way"
  Palestinian cabinet minister Nabil Sha'ath
"We have to expect difficult days ahead"

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29 Jan 03 | Middle East
28 Jan 03 | Middle East
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26 Jan 03 | Media reports
27 Jan 03 | Middle East
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