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Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must run together in the next elections to prevent a split in the Likud, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin suggested recently.

Rivlin (Likud) proposed Sharon and Netanyahu reach an agreement before the next elections to run together so as to preserve the party's integrity. "The two must agree to run together as Nos. 1 and 2 with a rotation in the middle of the term - so that each one serves two years as prime minister - or some other way," he said, adding, "both of them support the disengagement plan."

Rivlin raised this idea recently in separate talks with Sharon and Netanyahu. The prime minister and Netanyahu's bureaus refused to comment.

A Netanyahu supporter yesterday: "If Netanyahu receives an official proposal, he should consider it favorably. Nobody can guarantee him a victory over Sharon in a face-off."

Sources close to both men said the political atmosphere is not ripe for such a far-reaching move. The main threat to this kind of agreement is the mutual lack of trust between the two sides.