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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 26 February, 2003, 20:07 GMT
Profile: Silvan Shalom
Silvan Shalom (left) and Ariel Sharon
Shalom (l) is a strong ally of Sharon
The surprise appointment of Silvan Shalom as Israeli foreign minister has injected new life into a flagging political career.

In two years as finance minister from 2001, Mr Shalom came to be identified with the worst economic crisis in Israel's 55-year history.

He was blamed for a series of unsuccessful state budget plans and failing to rescue Israel from an economic slump brought on by the conflict with the Palestinians and a global market slowdown.

Towards the end of his tenure, there were growing calls for Mr Shalom to admit defeat and resign from the government.

In the end, correspondents say Mr Shalom's political survival had more to do with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's desire to sideline the incumbent foreign minister - his long-time rival Binyamin Netanyahu - than any personal merits.

Diplomatic novice

Born in Tunisia in 1958, Mr Shalom grew up in Israel, serving in the army and working as a journalist.

1958: born in Tunisia
1959: moved to Israel
1992: joined Knesset
1997-98: deputy defence minister
1998-99: science minister
2001: finance minister
2003: foreign minister

He entered politics relatively late, joining the Knesset or Israeli parliament as a member of the right-wing Likud Party in 1992.

Prior to his appointment as Israel's top diplomat, Mr Shalom had little experience of foreign affairs, having briefly only otherwise served as Israel's minister of science.

Fluent in Hebrew, English and Arabic and able to speak some French, Mr Shalom inherited his new post from one of the most eloquent and media-savvy proponents of Israel's position to the world at large, in the form of Mr Netanyahu.

Like Mr Netanyahu, Mr Shalom is staunchly right-wing and shares his predecessor's approach towards Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Soon after the Palestinian uprising began in September, 2000, Mr Shalom is reported to have called for Mr Arafat's expulsion from the area.

Mr Shalom is now tasked with handling Israel's oft-strained relations with the international community and representing Israel during a possible US-led war with Iraq.

Sharon ally

Correspondents say Mr Shalom's appointment was a safe move for Mr Sharon, himself a former foreign minister who is now likely to increase his control over foreign affairs.

Unlike Mr Netanyahu, Mr Shalom is a Sharon loyalist and is popular with the party faithful.

He is also well-known to the public through his marriage to Israeli talk-show host Judy Shalom Nir-Moses.

At 44, Mr Shalom now sees his career back on the rise and is known to harbour ambitions for Israel's highest office.

Mr Shalom reportedly pressured Mr Sharon into offering him a top job, saying he would accept nothing less.

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