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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Labor leader ousted overnight

Israeli Defence Minister Amir Peretz was ousted as Labour party leader in a key primary yesterday, with ex-premier Ehud Barak to face a former security chief in a second round, television polls said. Two separate polls were split, however, on who would win the most votes in the key ballot that is likely to affect the coalition of embattled Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

A poll by the public Channel One station gave Barak 38 per cent of the vote in the key race, compared with 36 per cent for Ami Ayalon, a former chief of the Shin Beth domestic intelligence service.

A poll for the private Channel Two put Ayalon in the lead with 39 per cent and Barak at 33 per cent.

Peretz came in distant third with between 17 per cent and 19 per cent of the vote, the polls said. His popularity ratings have been in single digits after he was blasted by a government inquiry for failures during last year’s Lebanon war.

Both Barak and Ayalon have warned that they will pull Labour out of Olmert’s coalition unless the beleaguered premier steps down because of the scathing Lebanon war inquiry.

Ayalon has vowed to do so immediately while Barak has said he would serve in Olmert’s government as defence minister until early elections are held.