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Israeli police to grill Olmert for fourth time

Latest update : 2008-08-01

Israeli PM Ehud Olmert is going to face questioning for the fourth time over allegations he took bribes from an American businessman to fund election campaigns. On Wednesday, Olmert announced that he would step down in September.

Police were to grill Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Friday over graft allegations, two days after he announced he would step down in September.
   
It will be the fourth time since May that anti-fraud squad officers interview Olmert at his official residence in Jerusalem in connection with the allegations of wrongdoing, which he has denied.
   
Olmert, 62, is expected to be questioned about allegations he illegally received electoral and other funding from a wealthy US financier and that he sent out multiple bills for the same overseas trips.
   
The questioning cames just two day after the premier announced he would step down after a September 17 leadership election in his centrist Kadima party, a move that followed a growing chorus of calls for his resignation over the graft allegations.
   
Olmert has been dogged by six scandals over his conduct in the years before he took office in 2006.
   
"I have made mistakes and I regret it," Olmert said on Wednesday when he announced his decision to step down.
   
"I will quit my duties in an honourable, just and responsible manner, as I have acted throughout my mandate. I will then prove my innocence."
   
Olmert's decision to go cast a shadow over already slow-moving US-backed peace negotiations with the Palestinians and raised the spectre of political turmoil in Israel.
   
On Thursday, Olmert's top diplomatic aide Yoram Turbowicz announced he would quit his job later this month. Widely considered the premier's closest advisor, Turbowicz is described by Israeli media as Olmert's pointman with the administration of US President George W. Bush.
   
As hopefuls jockeyed for position ahead of the Kadima party vote, the future of the government coalition appeared increasingly uncertain.
   
An opinion poll published on Friday showed that right-wing parties would lead any early elections to replace Olmert irrespective of who wins the Kadima primary.
   
While Kadima would gain more seats than the main opposition Likud party, a coalition of right-wing parties would dominate parliament, putting them in a position to name the premier, according to the poll published in the Haaretz newspaper.
   
Should Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni win the Kadima vote, the centrist party would win 26 seats in the 120-member parliament and Likud 25, the survey found. If hawkish Transport Minister Shaul Mofaz became Kadima leader, it would only net 19 seats.
   
A right-wing alliance would have 60 to 66 seats in the Knesset while the current Kadima-Labour-Shas coalition would only have 47 to 51, the survey showed.
   
Recent opinion polls indicate Likud leader and former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has called for snap elections.

Date created : 2008-08-01

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