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Israel's Olmert chairs his last cabinet

Israel's Olmert chairs his last cabinet
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With Israel expected to swear in a new government on Tuesday the cabinet of out-going Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has met for the last time.

While Tzipi Livni’s centrist Kadima party looks unlikely to play any part in the new administration, Labour’s Ehud Barak agreed to join up last week. At the meeting Olmert urged his replacement, Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu, to continue to pursue his policies. ‘‘During the week a new government will be presented to the Knesset headed by Benjamin Netanyahu and the duties of this government will come to an end. I really hope the new administration will continue to work on the important and central issues this government has worked towards and will also renew other issues,’‘ Olmert said. Talks also centred on a potential prisoner swap for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit, but hopes are fading he will be released before Olmert steps down. Netanyahu’s coalition of 69 out of the 120 members of Israel’s parliament was confirmed last Tuesday after Ehud Barak agreed to join Likud. But, that margin could decline. Some Labour members are furious at Barak’s decision to work with the party’s historic enemy as well as far- right nationalist Avigdor Leiberman.