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Netanyahu Accepts Israeli Foreign Minister Post, With Conditions - 2002-11-03


Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accepted the position of foreign minister offered by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, if the government calls for early elections.

Mr. Netanyahu told reporters he made the decision following two hours of talks with the prime minister Sunday in Jerusalem.

The talks came as Mr. Sharon continued efforts to rebuild his ruling coalition. The prime minister held an inconclusive first round of talks with the far-right National Union - Yisrael Beitenu Party, whose seven seats would give the coalition a narrow majority in parliament. National Union officials said the party is unlikely to support the prime minister unless the government takes a harder position toward the Palestinian leadership. The two sides are to meet again Monday after a confidence vote in parliament.

Also on Monday, the parliament is to consider the nomination of former hard-line army chief-of-staff Shaul Mofaz as defense minister. General Mofaz was chosen on Saturday, three days after Binyamin Ben Eliezer abruptly resigned when his Labor Party quit the coalition in a dispute over funding for Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories.

Meanwhile, Israeli troops have destroyed two houses in the Burkin area of (the West Bank city of) Jenin Sunday. Israeli officials said the houses belonged to Palestinian militants believed to be involved in separate attacks that resulted in the deaths or injuries of Israelis. The Israeli army also arrested members of the militant group Hamas near (the city of) Nablus.

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