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Labor Party sets deadline for Likud

The Labor Party voted Thursday to give Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and his Likud Party two weeks to accept Labor's compromise formula for starting peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians or face dissolution of the government. After eight months as the coalition government's junior partner, Labor's 107-member Central Bureau voted unanimously to leave the government if Likud does not accept Labor's formula by March 7.

"The minute they say no, that will be the end of the story," the Labor Party leader, Shimon Peres, said.

Likud leaders insisted that they would not act in response to an ultimatum from Labor. Deputy Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a senior party member, said: "We don't deal with ultimatums, and we certainly don't yield to them. If Labor wants to bolt the government, they are free to do so. But they will be responsible for dealing with the consequences."

Labor has threatened to break up the coalition more than once before, only to back down in the end, faced with the likelihood that it would have to go into opposition if the coalition was brought down.

But this time party leaders insist that they are serious, largely because the political circumstances now seem to favor Labor if the government falls.