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Israeli Police Question PM Olmert Again in Corruption Probe

Israeli police have questioned Israel's embattled leader in connection with a bribery case. The investigation has created political uncertainty in Israel, as we hear from Robert Berger at the VOA bureau in Jerusalem.

This was the second time that police questioned Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in a corruption scandal that could topple him from power. He was questioned for an hour at his official residence in Jerusalem.

Investigators suspect that Mr. Olmert illicitly received hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash from an American Jewish businessman. This allegedly occurred over a 10-year period when Mr. Olmert was mayor of Jerusalem and minister of trade.

Police and state prosecutors suspect that he took bribes, violated campaign funding laws and laundered money. Mr. Olmert denies any wrongdoing but says that if he is indicted, he will resign. That is not imminent because the investigation is expected to take many months.

In the meantime, the scandal is dominating the headlines here and is seen as a serious distraction while Israel conducts sensitive peace talks with the Palestinians and Syria.

"We are living in an age of uncertainty relating to the highest official of the government, so that impacts negatively on the operations of the government," said Michael Partem of the Movement for Quality Government in Israel. "And it's not a healthy situation."

Mr. Olmert's spokesman Mark Regev says the scandal will not affect the peace process.

"I spend many hours of my working day with the prime minister and I can tell you that he is focused on what needs to be done," he said.

This week, Israel announced that it has resumed peace talks with Syria after an eight year break. The right-wing Israeli opposition is accusing Mr. Olmert of making irresponsible concessions for peace to divert attention from the corruption scandal.