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Use of ~ in package versions

The ~ character can be used in package versions, so that x.y~pre1-1 <<
x.y-1, but it's currently not used and lintian complains about
it. nevertheless it seems to work. can this notation already be used
for packages, which could be part of sarge? what are the required
versions of dpkg and apt to use this notation?

Thanks, Matthias

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