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Brazil's Chief of Senate Steps Down To Fight Corruption Charges

The president of Brazil's senate has stepped down so he can fight accusations of corruption.

Senator Renan Calheiros went on national television Thursday night to announce he is taking a 45-day leave of absence.

Calheiros denied accusations of taking payments from a construction company that was bidding on government contracts.

He said he is innocent and is temporarily stepping down to prove that he doesn't need the office to defend himself.

The senate voted last month not to remove Calheiros as senate president. But the senator still faces allegations of fraud and embezzlement in the parliament's ethics committee.

Calheiros is a member of a powerful party (the powerful Democratic Movement Party/the PMDB) in the 11-party coalition of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Senator Tiao Viana, of president Lula da Silva's Workers Party, will take over as president of the senate during Calheiros's absence.

Calheiros is the latest ally of the president to step down because of a scandal.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.