Pensioners Party chairman Rafi Eitan denied yesterday that he had signed an agreement with Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu before the recent elections.

He was responding to a report in Maariv which claimed that in exchange for the Pensioners foiling Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni's bid to form a government four months ago, Eitan would be minister for pensioner affairs in a future Netanyahu-led government. This would happen regardless of whether the Pensioners made it into the Knesset in this month's elections.

"The one thing that was said in our conversations - and I received a negative reply to it - was that I wanted the Pensioner Affairs Ministry to be preserved," Eitan said in an interview with Army Radio. "With respect to me personally, nothing was said, and I am willing to go out into the wide world. I have a lot to do there."

Eitan claimed that Netanyahu "proposed that I move to Likud as a unit with several [other] Knesset members and receive reserved slots in Likud for the coming elections, but I refused. I said then, and I still say today: If the pensioners think it is to their benefit to have a sectoral pensioners party, they should establish a sectoral party. And if they think there is no such need - that is entirely their loss."

Eitan did tell the radio, however, that he intended to keep the Pensioners Party in existence. "I assume it will move to [include] additional people, but I will preserve it for the next election," he said.