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Israel's Supreme Court: Former Security Official Unfit for PM Advisor Role

Israel's high court has ruled Thursday that a former security official who admitted to killing two Palestinians in custody is not fit to serve as Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's top anti-terror adviser.

The high court ruled that Ehud Yatom can no longer serve in Mr. Sharon's office because of his role 17 years ago in the so-called Bus 300 affair.

Two Palestinians captured alive in 1984 after a bus hijacking were killed by officers of the Shin Bet, Israel's secret police, who then tried to cover up their involvement.

At the time of the scandal, Mr. Yatom was a senior member of the Shin Bet. He was one of four officers who received presidential pardons before they could be indicted.

In an interview with the Hebrew daily Yedoith Ahronoth in 1996, parts of which Mr. Yatom later disputed, he was quoted as saying he had used a rock to bash the Palestinians to death.

He said he acted on the orders of the then head of the Shin Bet but later denied making the admission.

The high court ruled that the directive was illegal and should not have been carried out.

Mr. Yatom continued to protest his innocence following the high court ruling Thursday. Referring to his actions in 1984, he said he "acted according to the norms that were acceptable then." He called the court decision a sad one for the country's defence forces.

He said that he is not guilty of any wrongdoing and he had only acted in the interests of his nation's security and to save lives. He said he intends to clear his name by putting the matter in the hands of Israeli voters.

Mr. Yatom said he plans to run for the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, as a member of Prime Minister Sharon's Likud Party.

Mr. Sharon said he disagrees with the high court's decision but will abide by it.

The prime minister appointed Mr. Yatom as his chief adviser on counter-terrorism in June, a move that provoked a storm of protest and a petition to the high court from members of the left-wing Meretz Party.