Sharon Aides: PM Planning Far-reaching Diplomatic Initiatives

Sharon's associates say he intends to evacuate isolated West Bank settlements in his next term.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's decision to resign from the Likud indicates his intention to carry out far-reaching diplomatic moves in what would be his final term as premier should he win re-election, Sharon associates said Sunday.

If Sharon had no intention of going beyond the disengagement from the Gaza Strip, aides say, he would have stayed in the Likud "and be on the safe side."

The prime minister's decision to leave the party testifies to a significant about-face in his ideology, which is likely to include favoring the evacuation of most or all isolated settlements in the West Bank, Sharon's aides said.

Sources close to Sharon said Sunday night that the new party would be a "true centrist party, from every perspective: political, economic and social."

Sharon's new party would likely attempt to form a coaltion with Labor, Shinui, and even Meretz-Yahad, in addition to gaining parliamentary support from Arab factions in the next Knesset.