Israeli Prime Minister-elect Ariel Sharon has offered the powerful job of defense minister in a national unity government to former Labor premier and Nobel peace laureate, Shimon Peres, AFP said, citing Israel Radio Wednesday.
Labor spokesman, Yerach Tal, said "such an offer would be a serious error on Sharon's part, as it's just the Labor party that must designate representatives for the government, said the agency.
"Such interference cannot be allowed," he added.
Military and public radio both said Sharon made the offer to Peres during a telephone conversation, the agency added.
But Haaretz newspaper reported that Sharon's bureau said that the defense portfolio had not been offered to Peres. Sharon's aides emphasized that the Prime Minister-elect would not accept "any candidate" Labor for the defense portfolio.
"This is not the tourism portfolio. This is the most important portfolio. The minister has to work closely with the prime minister and therefore Sharon has to choose the minister," Sharon's aides said.
The Likud, added Haaretz, expects that Sharon would not object to the appointment of telecommunications minister, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, who is interested in the portfolio as defense minister.
Deputy defense minister Ephraim Sneh has announced that he is also competing for the portfolio, said the paper.
The reports follow outgoing Labor prime minister Ehud Barak's surprise announcement late Tuesday that he would not take the defense portfolio in a broad-based government led by Sharon, as he had originally agreed, and that he would be retiring from politics.
Sharon is hoping to form a national unity government with Labor following his crushing defeat of Barak in the February 6 election for prime minister - Albawaba.com
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