Lieberman: Yisrael Beiteinu May Yet Join Olmert Government

Says the ball is now in Olmert's court, Israeli voters wanted Kadima-Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu gov't.

Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman said Sunday that his party was "still in the picture" with respect to the possibility of joining the new government, and that further progress was now up to Interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Lieberman had been widely expected to announce Sunday that coalition talks with Olmert's Kadima party had ended in failure.

But in a news conference in Jerusalem, he told reporters, "We are open to negotiations and the ball is in Olmert's hands."

Lieberman reiterated his contention that Israeli voters wished to see a center-right government, with Kadima joined by Yisrael Beiteinu, the likud and the ultra-Orthodox parties, and not a "leftist government with Labor and Meretz.

Lieberman complained of the treatment he said that his Russian immigrant-based party had received during coalition talks.

"It cannot be, that an entire party and an entire sector of the public is ruled out" of the coalition because of the attorney general's ruling that Lieberman could not serve in the post he sought, that of public security minister.

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz has ruled that Lieberman, who is the subject of a continuing police investigation, may not be appointed to head the ministry, which oversees the police.

Lieberman also spoke out against Kadima's "zig-zag" conduct of the coalition talks, which, in effect, pitted the right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu against the leftist Meretz in parallel negotiations.