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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 January 2007, 14:21 GMT
Israel MPs allow Katsav absence
President Moshe Katsav gesturing during Wednesday's press conference
On Wednesday, Mr Katsav angrily denied the accusations against him
Israeli MPs have narrowly approved a request by President Moshe Katsav to take leave of absence so he can fight rape and other allegations.

Committee members pored over legal documents in an attempt to work out the consequences of their recommendations.

The case has shaken Israeli political circles and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has called on him to step down.

On Wednesday Mr Katsav angrily denied the allegations, describing them as "the libel, the defamation, the lies".

Correspondents say the move to consider Mr Katsav as "temporarily incapacitated" is a face-saving measure as Attorney General Menachem Mazuz decides whether to order what would be an unprecedented criminal trial for an Israeli head of state.

The House Committee vote could hardly have been closer, with 13 MPs voting in favour of the president's request for a three-month leave of absence and 11 against.

At a news conference on Wednesday, an irate Mr Katsav hit out at his accusers.

"The law does not oblige me to resign," he said. "I will not give in to blackmail."

Speaker of Parliament Dalia Itzik will take on Mr Katsav's mainly ceremonial role.

As president, Mr Katsav has immunity from prosecution - a status unaffected by the suspension approved on Thursday.

But there is growing pressure on him to step down and also moves by lawmakers to impeach him.

"Under these circumstances, there is no doubt in my mind that the president cannot continue to fulfil his position and he must leave the president's residence," Mr Olmert said on Wednesday.

Mr Mazuz said on Tuesday that he intended to charge Mr Katsav with offences including rape, obstruction of justice and fraud.

Israeli PM urges president to go
24 Jan 07 |  Middle East
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29 Oct 06 |  Middle East
Profile: Israeli President Katsav
16 Oct 06 |  Middle East
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16 Oct 06 |  Middle East
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23 Jan 07 |  Middle East

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