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Israel's Peres gets key job in Olmert's cabinet

Written by: Staff
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JERUSALEM, May 1 (Reuters) Israeli Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert gave veteran statesman Shimon Peres a prominent role in his cabinet as he finalised ministerial posts today ahead of the swearing-in of the new government.

Peres, an 82-year-old former prime minister who won a Nobel Peace Prize for the 1993 Oslo accords with the Palestinians, will serve as one of Olmert's deputies and as minister of the Negev, Galilee and Regional Development.

His role reflects Olmert's plan to withdraw from isolated settlements in the occupied West Bank while bolstering several key settlement blocs and building up Israel's relatively sparsely populated Negev desert and Galilee regions.

''Peres will be the government's elder statesman, to be sent on special missions to the Arab world and European nations,'' said a senior official in Olmert's centrist Kadima party, which Peres joined after losing a Labour Party leadership election.

Peres' appointment was the first in a series made after Olmert sewed up a governing majority by bringing centre-left Labour, the Pensioners Party and the ultra-Orthodox Shas party into his coalition after winning a March 28 election.

The guidelines for the new coalition were to be filed with parliament later today, a procedural move before a Knesset session as early on Thursday at which the government will be ratified and sworn in.

Kadima, which won the most seats in the election but not an outright majority, hopes to form a broad coalition to carry out its West Bank plan.

Olmert's office said Kadima Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni would stay on in her post. Kadima is also expected to hold the finance ministry as one of 12 portfolios it will occupy in the new government.

MORE REUTERS SB VV1610

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