Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's new "National Responsibility Party" has been formally recognised as a parliamentary faction, officials from Parliament say.Approval for the centrist party - a formality that had not been in doubt, was given by a parliamentary committee. The party, launched after Mr Sharon broke from the ruling Likud, has not been officially named in public.
Mr Sharon's party now has support from 16 members of Parliament, 14 of those from the right-wing Likud and one who joined from the centre-left Labour Party.
Lawmakers were expected later on Wednesday to approve a motion calling for early elections on March 28 and to dissolve Parliament ahead of the ballot.
Mr Sharon quit Likud on Monday in a move that could reshape Israeli politics for years to come, saying he could not push for peace with the Palestinians while "wasting time" battling far-right rivals in Likud.
Opinion polls showed the biggest gamble of Mr Sharon's long political career could pay off, giving his party 30-33 seats in the 120-member Parliament, probably enough to assure him a third term, reports Reuters. I.L.