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Israel's Lieberman quits after indictment

Dec. 14, 2012 4:22 A.M. (Updated: Dec. 15, 2012 7:29 A.M.)
JERUSALEM (Reuters) -- Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman resigned on Friday after being charged with fraud and breach of trust, in a move that could have repercussions on next month's election.

"I have decided to resign my post as foreign minister and deputy prime minister and ... also to remove my (parliamentary) immunity forthwith so I can end this matter quickly, without delay and clear my name absolutely," Lieberman said in an emailed statement.

Israel's Justice Ministry said on Thursday it would charge Lieberman over alleged irregularities tied to the promotion of an Israeli diplomat who had leaked him privileged information about a police probe into his activities.

More serious allegations, including money-laundering and bribery, were dropped, but even the lesser charges cast a cloud over his political future and within 24 hours of receiving the ministry report, he decided to stand down.

It was unclear if he would still stand in the Jan. 22 general election, although Israeli newspapers have suggested he might be forced to sit on the sidelines as the judicial case moved ahead.

Lieberman's right-wing party Yisrael Beiteinu (Our Home is Israel) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud group have formed an electoral pact ahead of the ballot and opinion polls had predicted they would win.

An outspoken foreign minister and a powerful partner in the governing coalition, Lieberman is known for his nationalistic rhetoric, making it a key component of his election campaigning.

Without the Moldovan-born former bouncer near the top of the bill, some pollsters have speculated that the combined group will see a slippage in support.

An official in the prime minister's office said Netanyahu would serve as acting foreign minister until the election.
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