Sharon wins key vote to co-opt Labour

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Likud Party has voted in favour of his bid to bring the opposition Labour Party into government, officials said on Thursday.

    Sharon plans to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza next year

    They said a first count found Sharon had won by 63%

    to 37% in

    a ballot that could avert a snap election and

    pave the way for a broad coalition that would allow him to push

    through his Gaza withdrawal plan.

    Sharon has proposed removing all 21 Jewish settlements from Gaza and four from

    the West Bank, reversing decades of support for building and expanding

    settlements.

    All settlements are illegal under international law, and Palestinians

    say Sharon plans to pull out of Gaza so he can consolidate control over the West Bank.

    Many members of his Likud Party have rejected his new policy, and his

    government has lost its majority in parliament.

    Likud already voted in August against inviting Labour to join the

    government.

    But after Sharon fired a key coalition partner for voting against

    his budget on 1 December, his coalition became more tenuous than ever.

    He then warned that

    the choice now was Labour or elections.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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