Netanyahu poised to call election, official says

JERUSALEM Tue Oct 9, 2012 12:49pm EDT

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the 67th United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. Headquarters in New York, September 27, 2012. REUTERS/Keith Bedford

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the 67th United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. Headquarters in New York, September 27, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Keith Bedford

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will make a statement on Tuesday, his office announced, and a political official said he had decided to call an early election.

The ballot, which Israeli commentators predicted would be held in January or February, seemed likely to focus on two main issues -- tensions with Iran over its nuclear program and the Israeli economy.

But an election campaign would not necessarily have an impact on any Israeli timetable for possible military action against Iran's nuclear facilities.

In a speech to the United Nations last month Netanyahu signaled any strike against Iran could wait until next spring or summer when he said Tehran might be on the brink of building a nuclear bomb.

Opinion polls show Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party would coast to victory in an early poll. Israel was not due to hold an election until October 2013, but Netanyahu has been locked in a dispute with coalition partners over passing a state budget.

"Following consultations with leaders of coalition parties, the prime minister will make a short announcement," his office said. The statement was due at 8 p.m. (1800 GMT).

An official, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said "yes" when asked whether there would be an early election. The same official when asked when the vote would be held said, "looks like early February".

Netanyahu would remain as prime minister in a transition government should parliament dissolve itself in the coming days. Elected in 2009, he presides over a five-party coalition government that controls 66 seats in the 120-member parliament.

(Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan, editing by Crispian Balmer)

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