Peretz to quit 'within weeks'

Israeli defence minister says he will step down after Lebanon war criticism.

    Amir Peretz and Ehud Olmert were both criticised over their handling of the war [EPA]
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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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