North Fork Bancorp, hoping to press its hostile bid for Dime Bancorp to a swift resolution, took the unusual step Wednesday of clearing the path for a competing bid by its ally, FleetBoston Financial Corp.

Melville, N.Y.-based North Fork has offered to cancel part of an agreement with Fleet that prevented the Boston-based bank from bidding for Dime. The agreement was part of a larger pact between the two companies in which Fleet would inject $250 million in support of North Fork's takeover of Dime in return for the chance to buy deposits and branches in New York from the combined company.

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