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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 January 2007, 15:21 GMT
Profile: Moshe Katsav
Moshe Katsav
The position of president is largely ceremonial in Israel
Israel's President Moshe Katsav, who faces charges of rape and abuse of power, was a little-known right-wing MP and former minister before he was elected to the largely ceremonial job in 2000.

During his seven years in office, he had confined himself largely to speaking up for the interests of the Jewish state abroad on his many foreign tours - including to former fascist-ruled countries like Austria and Croatia.

But more recently, he has come under intense pressure to resign over the alleged rape and sexual harassment of some of his female co-workers.

He denies any wrongdoing.

During his campaign for election, Israeli media made fun of him for his colourless, mild-mannered demeanour, and few believed he had a chance against former Prime Minister Shimon Peres.

First Israeli president born in a Muslim country
Became Likud MP in 1977 at the age of 30
Married since 1969, with five children

But he beat his more famous left-of-centre rival and became Israel's first Iranian-born president and the first from the Likud party.

His time in office has been marked by great turmoil and bloodshed in Israel's dealings with its Arab neighbours - the second Palestinian intifada erupted two months after he took office.

Power broker

Mr Katsav entered local politics in his home town, the modest former immigrant camp of Kiryat Malachi near Tel Aviv.

In 1969, at the age of 24, the town elected him as Israel's youngest mayor and eight years later he was elected to the Knesset for the Likud party.

Moshe and Gila Katsav
Mr Katsav has been married to his wife Gila since 1969
He established himself as a power broker in the hawkish party rather than a star in his own right.

But he proved a competent administrator when he was made transport minister in the late 1980s, and he served as minister of tourism and deputy prime minister in Binyamin Netanyahu's government elected in 1996.

Moshe Katsav was born in Iran in 1945 and he came to Israel with his parents in 1951 - a few years after its foundation.

He still speaks fluent Farsi. He took the opportunity, at the funeral of Pope John-Paul II in 2005, to chat to his Iranian counterpart in Farsi.

By chance, he had been born in the same town as the then Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, Yazd in central Iran.

The conversation and a handshake which Mr Katsav said they shared triggered criticism in the domestic press of both countries.

However, most stances he has taken - including supporting an unsuccessful ceasefire with the Palestinians in 2002 (in contrast to the incumbent prime minister, Ariel Sharon) - have avoided widespread controversy.

He has been married to his wife, Gila, since 1969 and the couple have five children and two grandchildren.

Israel's Katsav faces rape charge
23 Jan 07 |  Middle East
Israel president's home searched
22 Aug 06 |  Middle East
Katsav avoids ceremonial duties
13 Sep 06 |  Middle East
In depth: Middle East conflict
17 Mar 06 |  Special Reports

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