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Apr 29, 1:43 PM EDT

Israeli prime minister takes first step in forming coalition

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Conflict in the Middle East

JERUSALEM (AP) -- Israel's prime minister has taken the first step in forming his governing coalition by signing agreements with two parties.

Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party said it signed deals Wednesday night with the centrist Kulanu party and the ultra-Orthodox party United Torah Judaism.

Kulanu is led by influential newcomer Moshe Kahlon, who aims to carry out economic reforms and lower the cost of living. He is expected to be Israel's next finance minister.

Likud wouldn't immediately elaborate on terms of the deals. Israeli media said they include concessions for those avoiding the country's military draft for religious reasons.

Netanyahu won the elections in March but negotiations with potential coalition partners have been tough. He has asked Israel's president for a two-week extension to form a coalition government.

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