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World - Middle East

Barak assumes power with call for peace

barak
Barak: "The supreme goal will be to bring peace to the Israeli people."

 BACKGROUND:
iconMESSAGE BOARD:
Mideast peace

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Watch Barak's speech to Israel's parliament (July 6)
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July 6, 1999
Web posted at: 8:41 p.m. EDT (0041 GMT)


In this story:

New PM will ask for more ministers

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JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Fifty days after voters rejected the hard- line policies of Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party in favor of a center-left coalition, Israel's most decorated soldier, former army chief Ehud Barak, took over as prime minister on Tuesday, promising to begin a mission of peace.

"I swear to be true to the state of Israel and its laws," Barak vowed as he took the oath of office, ending six weeks of delicate negotiations to form one of Israel's broadest coalitions in a decade.

In a parliamentary speech before the swearing in, Barak declared that a resolution to decades of conflict in the Middle East was his top priority.

"I call on all regional leaders to take our outstretched hand and to make a peace of the brave in the area," he said during the speech.

"The supreme goal will be to bring peace to the Israeli people," said Barak, so that "mothers can sleep peacefully" in Israel.

He said that peace would not come unless it was based on four pillars -- peace with Egypt, with Jordan, with Syria and Lebanon, and with the Palestinians. Israel has signed peace accords with Egypt and with Jordan, leaving two remaining steps to a lasting peace in the region, Barak said.

"These two assignments together -- the reaching of a permanent agreement with the Palestinians and the achieving of peace with Syria and Lebanon -- are equally vital and urgent in my eyes," he said.

Initial Palestinian response to Barak's speech was positive.

"We are ready to work together to achieve the peace of the brave," Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat said, echoing Barak. "The Palestinian track is the central issue in the Arab world."

Netanyahu, in his last parliamentary address as prime minister, resigned his Knesset membership in a speech that lasted less than three minutes.

New PM will ask for more ministers

Barak
Barak and his new ministers pose for a traditional group photo  

Barak presented his cabinet, pieced together with representatives of seven parties, to a Knesset with nearly two-thirds of its membership signed on to the new prime minister's coalition. He said he would soon ask lawmakers to make room for more ministers due to the size of his coalition.

After Barak's speech, the Knesset debated and voted on Barak's choices, which were handily approved.

Earlier, the Labor Party's candidate for speaker of the Knesset, lawmaker Avraham Burg, was overwhelmingly approved by the members of parliament. Burg, however, was not Barak's choice for the post -- Labor leaders rejected relatively unknown politician Shalom Simchon in favor of Burg, who once called Barak's leadership "dictatorial."

Correspondent Jerrold Kessel contributed to this report.



RELATED STORIES:
Barak ready to assume office
July 5, 1999
Barak tells Arafat he'll follow in Rabin's footsteps
July 2, 1999
Centrist party to join Barak coalition
July 1, 1999
Israeli's Barak forges coalition to restart peace process
June 30, 1999
Possibility of Sharon in Israeli Cabinet sparks unease among Palestinians
June 23, 1999

RELATED SITES:
Israel's Institutions of Government
Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs - Home
The Middle East Network Information Center
Office of the Israeli Prime Minister
Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Labor party
Welcome to the Knesset - The Israeli Parliament
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