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Wednesday, 12 February, 2003, 17:53 GMT
Mitzna sets conditions for Israeli coalition
Israeli Labour leader Amram Mitzna
Mitzna ran on a peace platform
The leader of Israel's main opposition Labour Party, Amram Mitzna, says he will join talks on a national unity government if Prime Minister Ariel Sharon promises to remove Israeli settlements from the Gaza Strip.

If Sharon says he is willing to begin evacuating settlements in the Gaza Strip (...) then we have a basis for negotiations

Amram Mitzna

Outlining his conditions for joining a coalition, Mr Mitzna said moves should continue to complete separation fences between Israel and much of the occupied Palestinian territories.

Mr Sharon's Likud party won most seats in the elections on 28 February - but it is short of an overall majority and has been holding coalition talks with 13 other parties.

Up until now, Mr Mitzna has said his party will not join a Sharon government.

Options

But in a televised interview, the Labour leader said:

"If Sharon says he is willing to begin evacuating settlements in the Gaza Strip, complete building the separation fence soon, and use funds allocated for the settlements to deal with our social and economic problems, then we have a basis for negotiations."

Without such an undertaking, Mr Mitzna told the weekly Politika programme on Tuesday, Labour would remain in opposition even in the event of a war in Iraq.

Mr Sharon has said he wants Labour to take part in a national unity government.

His other option is a coalition with right-wing and religious parties.

Likud on Monday officially kicked off coalition talks focused on averting a far-right government.

Labour pulled out of the last national unity government in October in a dispute over the funding of Israeli settlements.


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10 Feb 03 | Middle East
06 Feb 03 | Middle East
03 Feb 03 | Middle East
10 Jan 03 | Middle East
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