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Israel's Olmert urged to quit over new allegations
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20:47, October 15, 2007

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Israeli State Control Committee Chairman Zevulun Orlev called on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to resign on Monday, a day after Attorney General Menachem Mazuzordered a third criminal investigation against him on suspicion of granting improper political favors.

"No one can manage to run a country with three investigations underway against him," Orlev told Israel Radio.

Orlev urged Mazuz to accelerate the investigations in order to bring them to a swift conclusion and recommended the Kadima party to appoint a replacement for the prime minister.

On Sunday, Mazuz ordered a third concurrent criminal investigation into Olmert who is suspected of making political appointments and assisting political cronies while serving as industry and trade minister between 2003 and 2005.

Meanwhile, member of Knesset (parliament) Ophir Paz-Pines from Labor party also called on Olmert to immediately suspend himself. "The prime minister is breaking records as the subject of serial investigations. Never have there been four concurrent criminal investigations into the actions of a single political figure in Israel," he was quoted by local daily Ha'aretz as saying.

Shelly Yachimovich, also a lawmaker from Labor said, "The moment is coming when the Labor Party will no longer be able to serve as fig leaf to cover up Olmert's corruption, and the party must seriously consider withdrawing from the government."

Gideon Sa'ar, the chairman of the Likud faction, said that Olmert was "the most investigated prime minister, with the lowest popularity," and therefore, "he has no right to negotiate the fate of Jerusalem, and Judea and Samaria, and it is doubtful whether he can go on managing the affairs of the state."

Israeli Intelligence and Investigations Division chief Yohanan Danino is expected to decide Monday on the unit that will deal with the investigation and he is set to discuss the probe with Mazuz.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the police would in the coming days appoint a team of investigators to handle the case. The Prime Minister's Office, however, denied the allegations, saying "these investigations are unnecessary ... It is clear beyond any doubt that these investigations will end with nothing."

Olmert has already been investigated twice last week for allegations of impropriety in the privatization of Israel's second-largest bank, Leumi.

He also is suspected of buying a Jerusalem home from a real-estate developer at a substantial discount in return for helping the builder obtain construction permits from Jerusalem authorities.


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