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Polls Show Boost for Israeli Prime Minister After Quitting Likud Party


Opinion polls in Israel suggest Prime Minister Ariel Sharon could win re-election next year as head of a new centrist party.

Mr. Sharon resigned Monday from the ruling Likud party and called for early elections.

The surveys show Mr. Sharon's new party would win as many as 33 seats in the Israeli parliament, while his former Likud party would only win between 12 to 15 seats. The Labour party would pick up 26 seats.

The prime minister says he quit Likud because of lingering resentment by party lawmakers over his decision to pull Israeli settlements out of the Gaza Strip.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan says early parliamentary elections in Israel could lead to a temporary "standstill" in the Middle East peace process.

Early elections are expected to take place in March.

Some information for this report provided by AP and AFP.

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