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News Briefs II

Tel Aviv Mayor to Run for Prime Minister, Head New Party

Los Angeles Times

Roni Milo, Tel Aviv's mayor and a leading moderate on Middle East peace in the Likud Party of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, announced Monday that he will seek Israel's top office in 2000 at the head of a new centrist party.

The announcement by Milo - a contemporary of Netanyahu and long considered a potential rival to the Likud leader - came as the prime minister held critical talks in London on a U.S. plan to break the yearlong stalemate in Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking. It also appeared timed to take advantage of escalating concerns here over what political commentators are calling a "culture war," the widening rifts between religious and secular Jews in Israel.

An outspoken opponent of the growing influence of religious parties in the government, Milo, 48, said his announcement that he will seek the post of prime minister was triggered in part by continuing controversy here over a canceled modern dance performance at last week's 50th anniversary gala.

The Batsheva troupe withdrew rather than accede to demands by ultra-Orthodox politicians to change part of its program in which dancers, moving to the tune of a religious song, were to perform in revealing costumes. Although many Israelis, not just the religious, have privately questioned the propriety of the planned performance, Milo on Monday put himself on the side of the dancers and others who have angrily accused religious leaders of trying to curtail artistic expression.

Western Digital to Team Up With IBM on Hard Drive Project

Los Angeles Times

Western Digital Corp. said Monday it will team up with IBM Corp. to build new disk drives for personal computers. IBM will sell Western Digital a series of computer components that read and write data from the disk and allow the computer's disk drives to store more information than older techniques.

Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed. In New York Stock Exchange trading, Western Digital stock rose 25 cents, closing at $19.88 a share; IBM shares fell 25 cents to $116.63.

Analysts say the proposed deal allows IBM access to new outlets to distribute its products and gives Western Digital a jump on emerging technologies and manufacturing lead-in time.

Western Digital, one of the largest players in the disk-drive market, has suffered financially for more than seven months as the industry has been battered by oversupply and weak demand.

"It's an excellent agreement for both of them," said Matthew Russo, an analyst with Sands Brothers & Co. "It also helps that there was a pre-existing tie between the two [firms]."

That link is Chuck Haggerty, chief executive of Western Digital and a former IBM vice president. Haggerty, who worked at Big Blue for 28 years before joining Western Digital, said he had been in talks with IBM staff about the proposed agreement for the past six months.

"This gives us an advantage: to be able to introduce our products much faster - as much as six months faster," said Haggerty, who expects the new product line to be introduced in 1999.