Agence France Presse (AFP)
October 6, 2008 - 8:00pm

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni pressed ahead with efforts to secure a ruling coalition on Monday, a day after delivering her first foreign-policy speech since being named to form a new government. Elected on September 17 to replace Premier Ehud Olmert at the head of the Kadima party, Livni needs to put together a governing coalition if she is to also take over as premier while averting a snap election.

She planned to meet on Monday with leaders of two religious parties - the Shas, which has 12 mandates in the 120-seat Parliament, and the United Torah Judaism, which has six MPs - media reported.

She held talks Sunday with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who leads the Labor party, the main ally in the governing coalition, with 19 seats in the Knesset. Kadima has 29 mandates.

Livni, 50, was formally asked by President Shimon Peres on September 22 to form a new government, after she took over as Kadima chairman from Olmert, who stepped down as police recommended he be indicted over graft allegations.

At a conference organized by her ministry Sunday, she delivered her first foreign-policy speech since the Kadima polls.

"Israel wants to achieve peace with all its neighbors, including the Palestinians, the Syrians and the Lebanese. Israel wants to achieve peace and normalization with all the Arab countries," she said.

She also said Iran, which Israel considers a strategic threat, is an issue that should be dealt with at the international level.

"Iran is not just a problem for Israel, it is not just a problem for the region," Livni added. "We must act together ... We must fight it."

Israel, widely considered to be the only nuclear-armed state in the Middle East, claims that Iran is seeking to build a nuclear arsenal.

Tehran insists its nuclear drive is entirely peaceful and has been under international sanctions with the threat of more to come over its refusal to halt uranium enrichment.


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