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Israeli Labor Party Member to Join Sharon's New Party

In Israel, a key Labor Party lawmaker has said she will defect from the left-wing party to join Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's new centrist party.

Tuesday's announcement from Dalia Itzik has further fueled speculation that her close Labor ally, Shimon Peres, will also join forces with Prime Minister Sharon's new Kadima party. Mr. Peres is expected to announce his decision on Wednesday.

Mr. Peres recently lost his party leadership post to Amir Peretz. Mr. Peretz withdrew Labor from Mr. Sharon's Likud-led coalition, forcing early elections scheduled for March.

Mr. Sharon quit Likud last week because he faced a revolt from right-wing deputies who opposed his decision to withdraw Israel from the Gaza Strip. Mr. Peres supported Mr. Sharon's disengagement plan.

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