Thursday, July 31, 2008
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, facing a widening corruption investigation, announced Wednesday that he will not compete in his party’s leadership primary in September. The move will effectively end his tenure as premier and is likely to complicate efforts to reach an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal before President Bush leaves office.
Olmert, 62, who has been under growing pressure to resign, continued to insist he was innocent of the corruption charges. He said he was choosing the public good over justice for himself.
“I was forced to defend myself against relentless attacks from self-appointed fighters for justice who sought to depose me from my position, when the ends sanctified all the means,” he said.
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In a live television broadcast from the back yard of his official residence in Jerusalem, Olmert said he would step down as soon as his Kadima party chooses a new leader in the primary set for Sept. 17. Olmert’s term was originally set to end in 2010.
In Washington, White House spokesman Gordon D. Johndroe said Bush spoke to Olmert just before his announcement. “He wishes him well and will continue to work closely with him while he remains prime minister,” Johndroe said, adding that relations “have been exceptionally close and cooperative” during Olmert’s tenure.
This article was posted: Thursday, July 31, 2008 at 3:38 am