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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 September 2006, 17:17 GMT 18:17 UK
Katsav avoids ceremonial duties
Israeli President Moshe Katsav
Mr Katsav could be impeached if found to have acted improperly
Israeli police have grilled President Moshe Katsav for a fifth time over allegations of sexual harassment and abuse of his position.

Meanwhile, parliament granted his request to step down temporarily in the light of the investigation.

This means Mr Katsav will not preside over the ceremony to swear in Israel's first female chief justice of the Supreme Court on Thursday.

Dorit Beinish will be to be sworn in by Knesset speaker Dalia Itzik instead.

Mr Katsav had asked for the day-long suspension of his duties in order to prevent the controversy surrounding him overshadowing the ceremony.

The 61-year-old father-of-five faces accusations that he abused his position of authority by forcing two female employees to have sex with him.

There are also allegations that he issued presidential pardons - one of the few powers of his office - illegally. Mr Katsav denies all the allegations.

If charged, Mr Katsav would be immune from prosecution. However, he can be impeached by parliament if it feels he acted inappropriately.

Mr Katsav is a veteran member of the right-wing Likud party, serving as transport minister in the late 1980s and in 1996 as minister of tourism and deputy prime minister.

He has held the office of president, a largely ceremonial role, since 2000.


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