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Monday, July 10, 2000, updated at 08:30(GMT+8)

Israeli Interior Minister Resigns From Government

Israeli Interior Minister Natan Sharansky on Sunday submitted his resignation from the government, which will take effect in 48 hours.

Explaining his resignation decision, Sharansky said Prime Minister Ehud Barak is leaving for the United States with an opening stand for the negotiations which is unacceptable by most of the coalition.

Sharansky made the remarks after meeting with Barak. He said Barak had attempted to dissuade him from resigning. They respect each other and he tried to explain his stand, he said.

Sharansky thanked Barak for having let him run the Interior Ministry and explained that his resignation was rooted in the realization that his ability to influence the negotiations with the Palestinians from within the coalition was virtually nonexistent.

"I have asked myself each day in the last months, whether staying within a government headed on a dangerous path was wise", Sharansky said. "The minute I made my decision it was like a rock was lifted, and I will be working from outside the government for the instatement of a national unity government", he added.

Sharansky, leader of Yisrael Ba'aliya which has four seats in the 120-member Knesset (parliament), declared last Wednesday night he would resign from the government at the next cabinet meeting (on Sunday) after Barak said he would go to Washington to attend the three-way Camp David summit even if he only had the support of the "a quarter of the Knesset".

Sharansky has called for the forming of a national unity government before going for the summit. He has also urged Barak to reach a national consensus over the upcoming negotiations with the Palestinians over remaining thorny issues including the state of Jerusalem, border, water resources, the future of settlements and the return of refugees.

The right-wing National Religious Party, which has six seats in the Knesset, has also threatened to leave the coalition over possible concessions to the Palestinians in the summit.

Barak has called on the parties to remain in the coalition, whose resignation will leave him a minority coalition of 59 Knesset members.

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Israeli Interior Minister Natan Sharansky on Sunday submitted his resignation from the government, which will take effect in 48 hours.

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