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Peretz threatens to force early Israel poll (AFP) FRANCE PRESSE) JERUSALEM, ISRAEL 11/13/05 9:16 AM ET)Source: http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20051113/wl_mideast_afp/mideastisraelpolitics_051113141637;_ylt=AlN4Rx7H4ENwDMqqXn00KYaaOrgF;_ylu=X3oDMTBiMW04NW9mBHNlYwMlJVRPUCUl AFP} Agence France Presse AFP} Agence France Presse Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
JERUSALEM (AFP) - The leader of Israel´s Labour party has threatened to back a bill to dissolve parliament, cranking up the pressure on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to agree to talks on calling early elections.

"I have no intention of letting Sharon play the political scene as if it were his private hunting ground. With all the respect I have for him, this era is over," Amir Peretz told Israeli television late Saturday.

The 53-year-old Moroccan-born trade union boss, who Thursday ousted Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres in a Labour leadership vote, has vowed to withdraw the centre-left party from Sharon´s fragile governing coalition.

Indicative of the crisis, the weekly cabinet meeting broke up after only 15 minutes and Labour ministers walked out, public radio said.

Education Minister Limor Livnat, a member of Sharon´s right-wing Likud party accused Peretz of delivering "demagogic speeches".

National Religious Party MP Zevulun Orlev will submit a bill to parliament on Wednesday calling for the dissolution of the house, to which Peretz is threatening to lend Labour´s crucial support.

"I asked him to coordinate his movements with me and he accepted.

"Sharon delayed my planned meeting with him on Sunday until Thursday. It is an irresponsible decision because the Labour party intends to leave the governing coalition and it is better done in a coordinated way," Peretz said.

According to a breakdown of voting intentions published by the mass selling Yediot Aharonot newspaper, 51 MPs plan to vote for the bill with 48 against.

Therefore a swing vote among Labour´s 21 deputies would easily tip the balance against Sharon.

If the vote passes, the bill must be approved by a parliamentary legal committee before winning three successive votes in the house.

After that general elections, not otherwise due before November 2005, will need to be held between a minimum of 90 days and a maximum of five months.

Political commentators say the new Labour leader is worried that master tactician Sharon is playing for time by delaying talks and waiting for the furore surrounding his shock win over Peres to die down.

If the National Religious Party resolution fails to win the required 61-MP majority in the 120-member Knesset, no similar bill can be submitted for another six months.

"The meeting is urgent. If the bill fails that will mean we´ll enter a period of standstill," Labour MP Ephraim Sneh told public radio.

"It is not a question of propriety. There are urgent matters," on economic and social policy, as well as the state of the stumbling peace process with the Palestinians, he added.

Peretz, a dove and the first union boss to lead the party, has made no secret of his disdain for the government´s "anti-social" policies and says Labour will work towards a definitive peace agreement with the Palestinians.

"All I ask is for the prime minister to explain the meaning behind delaying our meeting," Peretz told army radio.

His aides say that no less than 20 telephone calls to Sharon´s office have gone unanswered.

"Reactions to this are out of proportion. We do not decide on elections over a disagreement on a meeting," said cabinet secretary Israel Maimon, attributing the delay to the prime minister´s busy schedule.

"His (Peretz´s) behaviour shows he has no experience in matters of state (eds: correct). Mr Sharon is not a union leader who has to toe the line," said Sharon loyalist MP Roni Bar-On.

"Amir Peretz is trying to show that from now on he´s an equal player with Sharon, which apparently the prime minister is not ready to concede," said political commentator Akiva Eldar. (Copyright © 2005 Agence France Presse. 11/13/05)

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