Barak calls for Olmert’s ouster

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak called on the prime minister to step down over an alleged bribery scandal.

The Labor Party leader said at a news conference Wednesday that he did not believe Ehud Olmert could lead the country and tend to his personal matters.

Meanwhile, Olmert’s top adviser said the prime minister will stay in office despite mounting calls for his ouster over the bribery allegations.

Tal Zilberstein said Wednesday that Olmert is innocent of suspicions his relationship with U.S. financier Morris Talansky involved illegal activities and will not signal otherwise by resigning or taking a temporary leave of absence.

“He is determined to hold on to the office of prime minister, and I am saying this on the basis of a conversation with him just a short while ago,” Zilberstein told Army Radio.

“He has no intention of declaring himself temporarily incapacitated, nor of declaring anything, not at this stage or as long as he is about to prove his innocence.”

Talansky testified in open court Tuesday that during a 15-year relationship with Olmert before he became prime minister, Olmert took some $150,000 from him in cash contributions, many of which went undocumented and were not repaid. The disclosures drew widespread censure of Olmert in Israel.

One of Olmert’s lawyers, Nevot Tel-Tzur, said the deposition contained contradictions. He suggested that Israeli prosecutors seeking corruption charges against the prime minister had coached Talansky.

Talansky will not stand up to cross-questioning when he next appears in Jerusalem District Court in July, Tel-Tzur said.

“On July 17, there will be an earthquake in this case,” the lawyer told Israel Radio.

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