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Israel’s foreign minister calls for snap elections

JERUSALEM -- Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni called for snap elections on Sunday after failing to form a new government, dashing faint hopes of reaching a peace deal with the Palestinians in 2008.

“The people will choose their leaders,” Livni said after meeting with President Shimon Peres at his residence in Jerusalem.

Livni’s announcement came one month after Peres had appointed her to try to form a government to replace Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who resigned amid corruption allegations.

Her efforts collapsed after the ultra-Orthodox Shas party said on Friday it would not join the government because of her refusal to accept its budgetary demands and to pledge not to discuss Jerusalem with the Palestinians.

“Recent days have turned the coalition demands impossible and I had to draw the line,” Livni’s office quoted her as telling her centrist Kadima party ministers before Sunday’s weekly Cabinet meeting.

“When it turned out that everyone was taking advantage of this opportunity to make illegitimate demands, both financial and regarding the peace process, I decided to stop all this and go for elections,” Livni said.

The call for snap elections extends the country’s political limbo for at least another three months and could lead to the demise of the already stalled U.S.-backed Middle East peace process relaunched last November.

Both Olmert and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas pledged to try to reach a deal before US President George W. Bush leaves office in January, but despite months of negotiations, the talks have made little visible progress.

Officials in Olmert’s office told AFP that the beleaguered premier would continue the talks with Abbas in a bid to make “as much progress as possible.”

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 Israel’s foreign minister calls for snap elections 
In this photo released by Israel’s Government Press Office, Israeli Foreign Minister and Prime Minister designate Tzipi Livni, center, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, right, and Transport Minister Shaul Mofaz are seen during the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Sunday, Oct. 26. (AP)

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