Israeli police to quiz Olmert next week

Israeli police plan to question Prime Minister Ehud Olmert next week as part of an investigation that could force the Israeli leader out of office, officials said on Friday.

A government official said Olmert’s office has agreed to allot two hours for the August 1 session, less time than police had requested.

It would be the fourth round of questioning in a case probing allegations Olmert took bribes from an American businessman and whether he made duplicate claims for travel expenses.

The political turmoil could derail United States-backed peace talks between Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Olmert’s lawyers this week wrapped up five days of cross-examination of American fundraiser Morris Talansky, who has alleged that he gave the Israeli leader cash-filled envelopes. Talansky’s cross-examination will resume on August 31 and Sept 1.

Olmert has denied any wrongdoing and said he will resign if charged.

The prime minister has faced a handful of inquiries recently into his past financial affairs as mayor of Jerusalem for 10 years until 2003, and subsequently as a Cabinet minister until he succeeded the ailing Ariel Sharon as premier in early 2006.—Reuters

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