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Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met privately with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at the premier's Sycamore Ranch in the Negev on Friday and agreed to ease the tension between them "for the sake of the unity of the Likud."

Speaking after a memorial ceremony for Sharon's late wife, Lily, the two party rivals also agreed to meet again soon.

From a political standpoint, Likud sources said, it is impossible to overstate the importance of the meeting, which is likely to mark a new phase in the historically tense relationship between Sharon and Netanyahu. The pair are seen to be clashing over the leadership of the Likud party. The two have recently had public disputes over the disengagement plan and a national referendum.

Netanyahu received an invitation to the annual memorial service, which is normally attended by friends and others considered close to the family, as well as a few politicians.

Committed to pullout

In an appearance Friday before a group of alumni at the Technion Institute in Haifa, Netanyahu said that he is fully obligated to helping implement the disengagement plan that was approved by the government, despite his reservations.

"I accept and carry out government decisions despite the fact that there will not be a referendum on the disengagement plan as I had wished," the finance minister was quoted by Army Radio as saying.

Netanyahu added that he is determined to continue implementing his economic reforms, emphasizing that the state will not aid those who are able to work but rather those who are characterized as having limited capability to work, Israel Radio reported.

Netanyahu said he favors a gradual tuition structure whereby students enrolled in studies for a profession that offers higher pay should be charged more than others who are learning lower-paying professions.