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Israeli Labor Party Agrees to Stay in Coalition with Ultra-Nationalist Party


Israel's left-center Labor party has agreed to stay in Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's ruling coalition government despite Mr. Olmert's decision to include a far-right party.

Labor party members approved the decision in a vote Sunday.

The move clears the way for Mr. Olmert to bring hard-line leader Avigdor Lieberman and his Yisrael Beitenu (Israel Our Home) party into the government.

Lieberman is expected to become a deputy prime minister in charge of monitoring strategic threats facing Israel, focusing on Iran.

Also Sunday, Israel's attorney general said the country's ceremonial president, Moshe Katsav, should step aside temporarily while he awaits the outcome of rape allegations against him.

But the president, in a statement, said he is the victim of what he called "a low campaign" and that he will prove his innocence.

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz said it is "incorrect and inappropriate" for Mr. Katsav to continue in his post under the current circumstances. Mazuz made the comment in a legal opinion presented to Israel's Supreme Court.

Israeli police have recommended that Mr. Katsav be charged with raping and sexually assaulting several female colleagues. Police also say they have evidence of the president's involvement in fraud and illegal wiretapping.

The 60-year-old Israeli figurehead has denied all the allegations and says he is the victim of a conspiracy.

Mazuz is still considering whether to charge Mr. Katsav, and says he will not make a final decision for several more weeks.

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