Israel's left-wing Meretz party is due to decide Thursday whether to throw its weight behind a bid for the prime ministership by former premier and Nobel peace laureate Shimon Peres.
Peres, 77, officially announced late Wednesday that he intends to run for the nation's top job, setting the stage for a three-way clash with Prime Minister Ehud Barak and ultra-nationalist Ariel Sharon on February 6.
"I have decided to be a candidate, but evidently I could not be without the support of the Meretz party," he said after a meeting with Meretz leader Yossi Sarid.
Peres needs to win the support of at least 10 MPs to be eligible. Meretz has the required number, but the party has yet to decide whether to back him.
"We will decide this afternoon," Sarid told public radio.
Barak has warned that a Peres candidacy could cause a split in Israel's peace vote that would usher in Sharon, the burly ex-general reviled by the Palestinians for triggering the 12 weeks of Israeli-Palestinian violence that has left nearly 350 people dead.
Opinion polls show that Peres could win the election. In his otherwise illustrious half-century political career, he has never won a national election -- JERUSALEM (AFP)
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