Sharon's New Party: 'Forward'

Ariel Sharon's fledgling political party officially registered itself under the name "Forward" on Thursday, ending three days of indecision since the prime minister quit his hard-line Likud Party to set up a new centrist group.

Sharon and his supporters had also been weighing "National Responsibility" and "Hope" as possible names, but apparently decided that "Forward" better lent itself to election sloganeering.

"It's forward with credible leadership, forward with a clear direction," said lawmaker Abraham Hirschon, a founding member of the new party and like Sharon, a Likud defector.

Sharon left Likud to shake off the constraints of party rebels and proceed in negotiations with the Palestinians. Polls show his party has the best chance of winning in March 28 elections.

The now leaderless Likud was to convene its governing central committee in Tel Aviv later Thursday to set a date for party primaries to select a new chief. Front-runners are expected to be one-time premier Benjamin Netanyahu, incumbent Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom.

Mofaz on Thursday confirmed a newspaper report that he has enlisted the help of high-ranking reserve army officers to run his leadership campaign.

The Haaretz daily wrote that Mofaz, an ex-general and former head of the Israeli armed forces, has the support of 50 reserve officers of the rank of colonel and above who will help organize his bid in the primaries, expected to take place on Dec.19.

"They are people who volunteered," he told Israel Radio.