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Home >> World
UPDATED: 19:27, September 21, 2005
Israeli PM's senior adviser hints Sharon likely to leave Likud
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Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's senior adviser Eyal Arad hinted on Wednesday that Sharon will leave Likud, should the party's central committee decide to bring forward leadership elections, local newspaper Ha'aretz reported on its online edition.

Likud's central committee is expected to vote for early primaries, perhaps as soon as November, in a proposal that is viewed as tantamount to overthrowing Sharon as party chairman and as its candidate for prime minister in elections next year.

"The prime minister does not want to leave Likud," Arad told Israel Army Radio, "but if party members, acting with the Yesha Council (of settlers) under the leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu, throw him out of Likud, it seems he would have no choice."

Likud leaders led by Education Minister Limor Livnat exerted mounting pressure on Sharon on Wednesday to unequivocally pledge to remain in the party, should he be defeated in the upcoming showdown with Benjamin Netanyahu, who resigned as finance minister recently in protest against the disengagement plan.

Sharon refrained from saying he would remain even if he loses Monday's vote to advance the party primary, but speaking to 150 Likud central committee members at his official residence in Jerusalem, Sharon said, "I don't want to leave."

Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said Wednesday that he wholeheartedly backed a call by Livnat that Sharon should pledge to remain in the party and not establish a faction of his own, if he loses in the central committee vote.

Sharon told his supporters on Tuesday that he intended to win the race against Netanyahu for party chairmanship and go on to win the elections for prime minister.

However, senior Likud officials, including ministers who have supported Sharon, believe that Sharon has decided not to remain in the party, because even if he wins the central committee vote on moving up the party primary, his chances of beating Netanyahu in a subsequent vote among Likud members for the party chairmanship are now considered slim.

Source: Xinhua

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