URGENT ¥¥¥ Peres tasks Netanyahu with forming new Israel coalition

Israeli President Shimon Peres tasked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday with forming a new government after two days of intense talks with the parties recently elected to the new parliament.

"I have decided to charge Benjamin Netanyahu with forming the government," Peres said at a press conference at his official residence in Jerusalem, after 82 of the 120 members of the Knesset had declared in favour of the premier.

"I hope that this task will soon be completed," Peres said, as Netanhyahu stood beside him.

"Israel is in need of political and economic stability in order to be able to take necessary decisions on the serious subjects that are on the agenda," the president said. "These challenges are numerous, serious and urgent."

For his part, Netanyahu reaffirmed what he said after the election -- that his top priority was to "prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear arms."

He also repeated that he would seek to form the "largest government possible," and called on opposition parties to join it.

Formal coalition talks are to begin on Sunday.

Army radio said Netanyahu would meet late in the morning with Yair Lapid, whose centrist Yesh Atid party came second in the elections and who is expected to hold a key role in the new government.

It said he would then meet Naftali Bennett, whose rightwing Jewish Home party is also expected to join the coalition.