(JTA) -- Ariel Sharon resigned from Israel's ruling Likud Party. The prime minister met today with Israeli President Moshe Katsav to ask him to dissolve Parliament and authorize early elections, and then announced his own move. "I am resigning from the party and forming a new one," Sharon was quoted as telling the Likud secretariat in a letter.

Sharon's new party is expected to capitalize on mainstream support for his decision to withdraw Israeli soldiers and settlers from the Gaza Strip. According to media reports, it will be called the National Responsibility Party.

Polls suggest that even in his new party, Sharon may have difficulty beating his chief rival, Labor Party chairman Amir Peretz, in elections expected in March.


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