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Israel's Labor Party to Quit Ruling Coalition, Forcing Early Elections

Israel's Labor party has voted to quit the ruling coalition of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, paving the way for early national elections.

Labor's Central Committee approved the recommendation of party leader Amir Peretz by an overwhelming show of hands Sunday evening.

Last week, Mr. Sharon and Mr. Peretz agreed that early elections would be held by the end of March. A date for the polls is expected this week or next.

The Labor party joined Mr. Sharon's Likud-led coalition last year to help the prime minister defeat Likud rightists who tried unsuccessfully to block Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. Mr. Peretz said last week he would pull Labor out of the coaltion over differences in economic policy.

It is unclear whether Mr. Sharon will remain in Likud or form a new party before the polls.

Some information for this report provided by Reuters, AP and AFP.