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The cabinet voted yesterday to extend Meir Dagan's term as head of the Mossad for another year, until the end of 2010.

Yet even as they heaped praise on the intelligence chief, several ministers demanded that this extension, which will bring his term to eight years, be the last. "No one should serve in any post forever," said Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz.

Intelligence Minister Dan Meridor proposed that a search committee be set up to find a suitable replacement, to ensure that one is on hand when Dagan's latest extension ends.

"The Mossad chief has carried out important changes," Meridor said. "The situation is unique, the time is unique and he is a unique person. Nevertheless, we need to prepare other candidates. A Mossad chief can come from either within or outside the system."

Steinitz had a similar view. "This is an outstanding Mossad chief," he said. "He rehabilitated the Mossad. It has returned to being one of the best intelligence agencies in the world, and this is largely his doing. Nevertheless, it is important that there be changes in its leadership - changes that would usher in a new spirit and new thinking."