Communications Minister Reuven Rivlin has agreed to reconvene a panel to govern privatizing Bezeq, the national phone company.

The committee was disbanded at the end of 2001, after it had drafted guidelines for the privatization process.

Six potential buyers have applied to participate in the privatization tender, but asked to revise some of the procedures. This was one of the reasons, together with the intifada and the sorry situation of the capital markets, that led the state to suspend the privatization process.

Rivlin said yesterday, however, that there was a good chance ("60%") that the privatization would be go through this year.

The privatization committee will be chaired by the director-general of the Communications Ministry, Uri Olenik, and include the treasury's Accountant General Nir Gilad. In recent weeks, the ministry and Government Companies Authority have discussed several proposals to revive the privatization process, including a suggestion to offer a smaller package of shares initially.

As part of the privatization process, the government promised Bezeq employees that it would raise NIS 900 million via a share issue to finance an early retirement package for 1,700 workers. The share issue was postponed after the stock's value declined and the new privatization committee will need to renegotiate this arrangement with the workers.