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Olmert won't exclude any party in Israel coalition

Written by: Staff
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JERUSALEM, Mar 30 (Reuters) Interim Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert today signalled he was open to right-wing parties joining a government he hopes to form but an associate said they must accept the idea of West Bank pullbacks.

Negotiations to put together a coalition led by Olmert's centrist Kadima were expected to intensify next week after the party's smaller than expected win in Tuesday's election.

Kadima secured just 28 seats in the 120-member parliament, meaning it will have to align with at least three other parties.

The leading candidates were the centre-left Labour Party, the new Pensioners Party and one representing ultra-Orthodox Jews.

These parties are seen as most likely to agree to Olmert's plan to set Israel's final borders within four years with or without the agreement of its Palestinian neighbour.

But in an interview with Maariv newspaper, Olmert raised the possibility of bringing the right-wing Likud led by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, or the ultranationalist Yisrael Beitenu, headed by Avigdor Lieberman, into the government.

''There is no reason not to talk to the Likud. I will also call on the Likud to hold negotiations. Nobody is ruled out,'' Olmert said.

Olmert did not set any government membership terms in the newspaper interview, although he has said in the past that all his political partners would have to accept his West Bank plan.

In the absence of peace talks, Olmert has vowed to draw the frontier by removing isolated Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and expanding bigger ones, a blueprint Palestinians said would deny them a viable state.

MORE REUTERS SB RAI2052

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