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Israel's Lieberman says not backing Netanyahu or Gantz for PM

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Israeli ex-defence minister Avigdor Lieberman

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Jerusalem: Israeli ex-defence minister Avigdor Lieberman said Sunday he will not endorse either Benjamin Netanyahu or Benny Gantz for prime minister following last week's deadlocked elections.

Lieberman, who could potentially play a kingmaker role, spoke to journalists as President Reuven Rivlin began consulting political parties on who they will back for prime minister.

A delegation from Lieberman's secular nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party was due to meet Rivlin later Sunday.

Yisrael Beitenu won eight seats in the 120-seat parliament in Tuesday's election. Lieberman has insisted on a unity government between his party, Netanyahu's right-wing Likud and Gantz's centrist Blue and White.

He said he could not for now back Netanyahu because he is willing to form a coalition with Israel's ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties, which he accuses of seeking to impose religious law on the secular population.

Lieberman also said he could not back Gantz for now because he may reach a deal with either the ultra-Orthodox or Israel's Arab parties, which he called "enemies.

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