Sharon denies wrongdoing in bribery scandal

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has denied any wrongdoing in connection with a bribery scandal that police are investigating.

    Analysts say Sharon may be forced to quit within months

    Sharon said that he was not aware of his son Gilad Sharon's business deals with an Israeli property dealer who has been charged with attempting to bribe the prime minister in the 1990s.

    Sharon's office made no comment on the report.

    Police questioned Sharon for two-and-a-half hours at his official Jerusalem residence about the bribery scandal.

    A senior police source said Sharon had "cooperated fully" during the session and investigators had no immediate plans to question him again.

    A businessman friend was charged last month with trying to bribe Sharon when he was foreign minister. Prosecutors have said they should decide within months whether to indict the prime minister -- a move many analysts believe would force him from office.

    Gaza diversion?

    Commentators said the case could weaken the former general's hand in any talks with the Palestinians, while critics suggest his announcement this week of a plan to remove Jewish settlements from the Gaza Strip - illegal under international law - might aim to divert attention from the affair.

    Prosecutors said indicted businessman David Appel hired Sharon's son Gilad in 1999 and paid him large sums to persuade his father, then foreign minister, to promote real estate deals including a Greek island resort that was never built.

    The indictment against Appel, who has denied the charges, did not cite any evidence that Sharon knowingly accepted political favours. 

    SOURCE: Reuters


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