Netanyahu Still Wants Livni, Barak to Join Government

Likud official: Messages have been exchanged by close associates of PM-designate, Labor leader.

There is a still a chance that either Kadima or Labor could join Benjamin Netanyahu's government, a senior Likud official involved in the coalition talks said on Tuesday.

The official said that since Netanyahu met with Labor chairman Ehud Barak in the latter's Tel Aviv apartment earlier this week, additional messages have been exchanged by close associates of the two party leaders. The next 24 hours, he added, should reveal whether these talks are worth continuing.

Although the chance of this happening is small, the official acknowledged, it is enough to have persuaded Netanyahu not to finalize a narrow rightist government this week, as he had originally planned.

An associate of Barak's estimated the chances of Labor joining the coalition as "slim, but not nonexistent." In contrast, associates of Livni said that her "strategic decision" not to join Netanyahu's government remains unaltered.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu is slated to present his new coalition to President Shimon Peres next week and will not seek an extension to the two weeks he was given to forge a government.