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Israel's Labor Party leader resigns

Mitzna led party during historic defeat in January

Amram Mitzna announced his resignation Sunday.
Amram Mitzna announced his resignation Sunday.

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JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israel's Labor Party chief -- who led the opposition during the worst electoral defeat in its 55-year history -- resigned Sunday, blaming internal squabbles among party leaders.

Amram Mitzna, former mayor of the northern port city of Haifa, was elected party chairman in November. He ran for prime minister and was soundly defeated in January by incumbent Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of the Likud party.

In that election, the Labor Party won only 19 seats in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament -- a marked drop from the 26 seats it had won in 1999.

Mitzna, 58, is a strong supporter of a Palestinian state, and opposes Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza.

In announcing his resignation, Mitzna said his decision was fueled by personal rivalries among party members.

"Not a few in the leadership of the party did everything to hurt my ability to lead," he said. "The leadership was busy fighting against me more than fighting for peace and social justice."

The party lost public trust, Mitzna said.

"I am proud to be a member of the Labor Party, but in its present situation I cannot lead it," he said.

He said he will continue to be politically active, and added, "I still believe in peace."

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