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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 February 2007, 11:11 GMT
MPs consider Katsav impeachment
An emotional President Katsav gestures during a press conference
Mr Katsav has fought back against a damaging series of allegations
A panel of Israeli MPs have begun debating whether to take the unprecedented step of ousting the country's president, Moshe Katsav.

Mr Katsav faces indictment for rape, sexual harassment and abuse of power.

He denies wrongdoing and has been allowed to take temporary leave of office to fight any charges.

Sponsors of the impeachment need support of 90 out of 120 parliament members to remove Mr Katsav. Reports say the quota has not yet been reached.

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz told Mr Katsav of the intended indictment last month.

The president has been allowed a formal hearing before Mr Mazuz makes his final decision.

Angry tirade

Correspondents say parliament's House Committee is not expected to complete its deliberations about Mr Katzav's future on the first day.

The presidency is a largely ceremonial post, but the controversy surrounding Mr Katsav has shaken confidence in Israel's political system, coming amid a string of other high-level scandals.

Following last month's moves towards an indictment, Mr Katsav launched an angry tirade against the attorney general, police and the media, accusing them of conspiracy against him.

Rape charges carry a maximum sentence of 16 years' prison in Israel.

Mr Katsav currently retains immunity from prosecution, but that would lapse after his seven-year term ends in July.

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