Livni to ask Monday for extra time to form coalition

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, seeking to form a coalition government and become prime minister, will ask on Monday for an additional 14 days to complete the task, the office of President Shimon Peres said in a statement on Sunday, dpa reported.

Livni's first period of 28 days to create a coalition expires on Monday. If Peres gives her the extra time but she still cannot form a government within the next two weeks, the nation will most likely face elections within 90 days, a year earlier than expected.

Peres appointed Livni to form the new government on 22 September, a day after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert resigned amidst corruption charges, though he continues to serve as the transitional premier.

Livni had won her Kadima party's primary election several days earlier.

So far, Livni has only managed to bring on board the Labour party and is courting additional partners to have a majority government.

She has been working to win over the ultra-orthodox Shas party, which was a member of Olmert's government but is now demanding a significant raise in child allowances for large families.

Shas is seeking an extra 1.5 billion shekels (some 400 million dollars) in child allowances for the 2009 budget but Livni is only offering a third of that amount.

Also, Shas also wants a commitment that the government will not negotiate on Jerusalem with the Palestinians, an issue that might cause problems with the smaller left-wing Meretz party Livni has also met with, as it is demanding the opposite.

Israel Radio reported on Sunday that Livni has had some help in the talks with Shas. Her former rival for the head of Kadima, Shaul Mofaz, has been trying to bridge the gaps in the negotiations, party officials said.

Mofaz, after having accepted the results of the party's election, briefly quit politics, but has since returned.

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