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Belgian minister backs Livni in Israel vote

BRUSSELS – The next Israeli government should be led by centrist candidate Tzipi Livni after her tight election battle against hawkish ex-premier Benjamin Netanyahu, Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht said Wednesday.

"We have to wait, but with this result I think that a government should be formed by Kadima (Livni’s centre-right party)," De Gucht told VRT radio.

"I think that the pressure of international opinion will go in that direction. That’s also my choice. I think there is a greater chance of reaching a Middle East peace agreement with Livni than Netanyahu," he added.

Israeli Foreign Minister Livni and Netanyahu were locked in a battle for power after a photo-finish election that could send the peace talks into limbo.

Livni’s centrist Kadima party won 28 seats in the 120-member parliament, just one ahead of Netanyahu’s Likud party, leaving the country facing perhaps weeks of political uncertainty.

De Gucht cautioned that Livni, though less right-wing was "far from being a soft touch".

"On the contrary, she is a tough cookie. But she can at certain times make compromises while, as we have seen in the past, Netanyahu is rarely ready to compromise."