Likud MKs still trying to assemble coalition

Likud activists continued their attempts to assemble a coalition of 63 MKs from Likud, Labor, Shinui and NRP in order to replace Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's government without holding elections. Senior officials in the Likud have reportedly met with Labor Chairman Amir Peretz in an attempt to form a "social emergency government" that would not carry out any geopolitical moves until November of next year. Israel Radio reported that Peretz rejected the initiative, saying in closed meetings that he was unwilling to be a sandaled prime minister. Likud sources said that the contacts did not bear fruit because the Likud had no leader, but emphasized that once a leader was elected, the meetings would be vigorously renewed. Labor faction chairman Ephraim Sneh responded to the Likud statements with a denial that any meetings were taking place, adding that the Labor Party was looking forward to the March 28 elections.