Israel's Lieberman refuses to resign after fraud charge

Opposition parties called for him to step down.

Israel's Lieberman refuses to resign after fraud charge

World Bulletin / News Desk

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Thursday he "need not resign" after the Justice Ministry decided to indict him for fraud and breach of trust.

Should he be forced from office by the scandal, it would shake up Israel's top echelon weeks before a general election that the right-wing party of Lieberman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is predicted to win.

"According to the legal opinion given to me, I do not have to resign," an upbeat Lieberman said during a speech, rousing supporters to applaud.

"A final decision will be made after consultation with my lawyers and in the consideration of not hurting the voting public."

He denied all wrongdoing and called for speedy legal proceedings.

Opposition parties called for him to step down.

Investigations into Lieberman, 54, were first opened in 2001 and spanned nine countries. The more serious allegations included money-laundering and bribery, but the Attorney-General said there was no chance of a conviction on those.

The indictment focuses on Lieberman's efforts to promote an Israeli diplomat who had leaked him privileged information about a police probe pertaining to Lieberman.

'SERIOUS CONFLICT OF INTEREST'

A draft of the indictment passed on to parliament said Lieberman had acted in "a serious conflict of interest between his duties to the public as foreign minister ... and his personal feeling of commitment to (the diplomat) who had acted on his behalf in passing him secret information".

Shuki Lamberger, a senior state prosecutor, said it could take up to a month for the indictment to be officially served because of parliamentary immunity, which Lieberman said he would waive.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert resigned in 2008 after being indicted for corruption, though he has since been acquitted of most charges.

Last Mod: 14 Aralık 2012, 11:47
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