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The Likud and Labor are expected to sign a coalition agreement today, after negotiating teams met into the night and a solution was found to the recent crisis in the talks.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon intends to present his new government, consisting of the Likud, Labor and United Torah Judaism (UTJ) on Thursday.

Labor chairman MK Shimon Peres will be deputy prime minister. Labor will receive eight ministerial positions, including five ministries and two ministers without portfolios. In addition, Labor will get three deputy ministers.

Tomorrow Sharon will meet Shas chairman Eli Yishai to promote the possibility that Shas will join the government during January if circumstances allow it to support the disengagement plan. Sharon intends to keep three portfolios for Shas, as he wants to broaden the coalition base.

The UTJ is expected to receive the chair of the Knesset's Finance Committee and a deputy minister's post. It is demanding a deputy minister's post in the Social Affairs Ministry. However, the UTJ called off a scheduled meeting with the Likud today, in protest of the Likud and Labor's desecration of the Sabbath in their negotiations on Friday.

A crisis erupted in the coalition talks last Thursday due to MK Dalia Itzik's utterances, which led Sharon to halt the talks with Labor. The talks resumed after Peres and Attorney Ram Caspi, who is assisting him in the negotiations, called the Likud's chief negotiator Attorney Yoram Rabed at Friday lunchtime. Rabed briefed Sharon, who said the talks may be resumed but without Itzik.

Rabed and Caspi arrived at Peres' office in Tel Aviv that afternoon and resumed the talks, which ended close to 7 P.M., after the start of the Sabbath. Ramon demanded changing the law permitting the appointment of Peres as deputy prime minister before the new government is sworn in, as the present law allows only one deputy prime minister. The Likud agreed. It was also agreed that Sharon would decide who would take his place each time he goes abroad.

The teams decided to set up a ministry for Peres called the Deputy Prime Minister's Ministry, to take care of disengagement issues.

Sources in Labor's negotiation team said that Itzik, who stayed at home in Jerusalem, participated fully in the talks and managed to get another NIS 50 million for medicines.

It was also agreed that Labor would get three deputy ministers and that the last date for deciding on the evacuation of settlements would be March 1.

Labor will get the interior, infrastructures, communications, tourism and housing portfolios.

Sharon's new government will consist of some 23 ministers, eight of them Labor members. If Shas joins, it may get the health and transport ministries. Sharon decided to appoint a Likud deputy minister in the Interior Ministry.

MK Benjamin Ben-Eliezer said yesterday that Labor's joining the government will ensure its stability for at least a year and a half, to enable carrying out the disengagement. He said Labor was not adequately rewarded for joining the government and has received none of the senior ministries. However, to ensure the disengagement, it was necessary to compromise, he said. "We are joining to stay, and to make sure the disengagement is carried out and then the road map," he said.

Since at least 14 of Labor's 19 MKs see themselves as candidates for ministers or deputy ministers, a tough scuffle for portfolios is expected in the party this week.

Itzik yesterday refused to apologize for causing the crisis in the talks. "Why should I apologize?" she asked. "I never said about him what his ministers did ... this is the time to say that if I hurt the prime minister, I didn't mean to. Although he should be as sensitive toward Labor as he is toward the Likud."