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Israel’s finance minister came out in support of Tzipi Livni’s bid to head the ruling Kadima Party.

Roni Bar-On announced Thursday that he backs Livni, currently Israel’s foreign minister, in her campaign to replace Ehud Olmert as Kadima leader next month and, eventually, as premier.

The endorsement by Bar-On, among the most senior Kadima officials, looked likely to firm up Livni’s position as front-runner in the party race. Her closest rival is Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, a former military chief who has touted his security credentials in arguing that he is the best person to lead the Jewish state in hazardous times.

Olmert, who announced this month that he will not take part in Kadima’s Sept. 17 leadership election and will later step down as Israel’s prime minister, is widely perceived to be hostile to Livni. Yet Bar-On is one of Olmert’s closest allies in the Cabinet.

Livni, who argues that she has the best chance of keeping centrist Kadima in power against the challenge posed by Israel’s opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing Likud Party, previously won the support of another Cabinet member, Environment Minister Gideon Ezra.

A music CD with a provocative title triggered Israeli suspicions that nuclear secrets were being leaked.

Yasmin Sabah, a 22-year-old Israeli nurse, became the target of an undercover security probe last month after a passer-by saw a music CD in her car with the handwritten title “Jericho IV — Nuclear Upgrade.”

Israel is widely believed to have developed ballistic missiles known as Jerichos, though it is a state secret.

According to Sabah, who came forward with her account this week, two secret service agents posing as car buyers voiced interest in her vehicle and, having arranged a rendezvous, listened to every song on the CD before confiscating it.

Sabah said she was given the CD by a friend and she did not know the origins of the title. Israel’s Defense Ministry confirmed that Sabah had been investigated.

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