Peres turns to Netanyahu

Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu has been asked to form a government and be the next prime minister of Israel.

President Shimon Peres met Mr Netanyahu and Kadima leader Tzipi Livni this morning, and will entrust the former PM with creating a coalition.

Mr Netanyahu is likely to ask Ms Livni and Labo u r party chairman Ehud Barak to join him in a broad administration, although Ms Livni has suggested she will turn down any approach.

The new prime minister will have six weeks to create a cabinet.

Avigdor Lieberman, head of the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu party, which holds 15 seats in the Knesset, endorsed Mr Netanyahu on Thursday. It is because he holds the balance of power that Mr Peres was obliged to ask Mr Netanyahu to see if he can put together a coalition, despite the fact that Ms Livni's Kadima narrowly beat Likud by 28 seats to Likud’s 27 in the February 10 election. Labour produced its worst-ever performance with only 13 seats in the Knesset.

    Last updated: 1:30pm, February 21 2009