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Middle East
Peretz to quit 'within weeks'
Israeli defence minister says he will step down after Lebanon war criticism.
Last Modified: 06 May 2007 08:06 GMT
Amir Peretz and Ehud Olmert were both criticised over their handling of the war [EPA]
Amir Peretz, the Israeli defence minister, has said he will resign after an inquiry into last year's conflict with Lebanon was critical of his conduct, but not now.
 
Peretz, who is also leader of the Labour party, said he would step down after the party's leadership election on May 28, a poll he is expected to lose.
He said: "I announced more than a month ago that I intend, immediately after the Labour party primaries, to carry out far-reaching changes."
 
The Israeli media have said Peretz might quit this week, a move that could increase the pressure on Ehud Olmert, the prime minister, to step down.
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"One of [the changes] that I intend to propose is for the defence portfolio to be returned to [Olmert's] Kadima party and that we receive the finance portfolio," Peretz told Israel's Channel 2 television.
 
About 100,000 people demonstrated on Thursday in Tel Aviv to call on Olmert and Peretz to resign.
 
Peretz, however, said he would not leave his post any earlier. "I think everyone realises that two weeks here or two weeks there really do not matter."
 
'Hasty judgment'
 
Several Labour candidates to replace Peretz have said they intend to pull the party out of Olmert's governing coalition, a move that could force an early general election.
 
The government-appointed Winograd commission said on Monday that Olmert "made up his mind hastily" to launch the war last July against Hezbollah fighters, accusing him of "a serious failure in exercising judgment, responsibility and prudence".
 
The panel also criticised Peretz, saying he failed to recognise that his military inexperience obliged him to seek expert counsel in pursuing the campaign in Lebanon.
 
Olmert has repeatedly said he has no intention of resigning despite the commission's sharp criticism and a call from his own foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, to leave office.
 
Echoing Olmert, Peretz said in the television interview that he wanted to stay on for now to help the government and military fix mistakes highlighted in the inquiry's interim report.
Source:
Agencies
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