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Middle East

Israeli FM resigns after indictment

Avigdor Lieberman, an ally of PM Binyamin Netanyahu, quits after being charged with fraud and breach of trust.
Last Modified: 15 Dec 2012 09:50

Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli foreign minister, has said he was resigning after being charged with fraud and breach of trust, Reuters news agency has reported.

Lieberman made the announcement on Friday a day after being charged with fraud and breach of trust for promoting an ambassador.

"Though I know I committed no crime ... I have decided to resign my post as foreign minister and deputy prime minister," Lieberman said in an emailed statement, adding that he hoped to clear his name "without delay".

Lieberman initially refused to step down over the indictment and called the investigation a witch hunt.

"I am not legally bound to submit my resignation... but I have decided to step down from my duties as foreign minister and deputy premier," added the controversial ultra-nationalist politician.

However Lieberman, who leads the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party, was cleared of more serious offences, including bribery and money-laundering.

Israel's Justice Ministry said on Thursday it would charge Lieberman over alleged irregularities tied to the promotion of an Israeli diplomat who had leaked him privileged information about a police probe into his activities.

His resignation comes five weeks before Israel's general election.

Opinion polls had predicted that the right-wing party of Lieberman and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's Likud, running on a joint-party ticket would win the January 22 election, and it was not clear if his removal from the race would hurt their chances.

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