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Israel's Olmert Resigns as Prime Minister

  • VOA News

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has formally resigned after less than 33 months in office.

Mr. Olmert presented his resignation letter to President Shimon Peres at the president's official residence in Jerusalem Sunday. Mr. Olmert says he is resigning to concentrate on corruption allegations that have tainted his term in office.

President Peres was to begin talks with party representatives Sunday, before formally designating a party leader to form the next government. He is likely to ask Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to create the governing coalition and take the prime minister's post.

Mr. Olmert expressed support for Livni during a Cabinet meeting earlier in the day, when he informed his Cabinet members of his plans to step down.

Livni replaced Mr. Olmert as leader of the ruling Kadima party during party primaries last week.

If Livni fails to form a coalition, Israel will be forced to hold early general elections in the coming months.

Mr. Olmert is expected to serve as interim prime minister until a new government is formed.

Mr. Olmert is accused of unlawfully accepting cash from a U.S. businessman before becoming prime minister. He says the payments were legal campaign contributions.

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