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Frustrated over peace talks,Israeli politician retires


JERUSALEM -- Ezer Weizman, the swashbuckling architect of Israel's air force, who went from being a leading hawk to a peacemaker with Egypt, abruptly has announced that he was leaving the Knesset and retiring from political life.

Citing frustration with the right-wing government's handling of the peace process and the squabbling drift of the opposition Labor Party, Mr. Weizman, 68, said yesterday he was unable to shape events to his satisfaction and, as a result, was stepping aside.

Referring to recent Middle East peace negotiations in Spain and Russia, Mr. Weizman, most recently a Labor member of Parliament, said: "I waited for Madrid. I waited for Moscow. My feeling is that at this rate, I cannot contribute any more. I've been on the right, in the middle and on the left."

Just before Mr. Weizman took the Knesset rostrum and bid his colleagues farewell, Avraham Burg, a young dovish member of Parliament, said in an interview: "This is a great loss for the left and for Israel."

Some on the left had hoped that Mr. Weizman would agree to head a new leftist bloc in elections this June, but he made it clear yesterday that he had no interest in doing so.

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