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Sharon Confident About Completion of Term - 2004-01-22

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon says he has no intention of resigning, despite corruption allegations against him and the possibility that he might be indicted. In newspaper interviews published Thursday Mr. Sharon says he will not step down, and he is confident that he will complete his term of office. He says he remains focused on his job as prime minister and will not be distracted by the allegations.

Israeli Justice Ministry officials said Wednesday they will decide in the coming weeks or months whether to indict the prime minister for allegedly accepting money from a prominent businessman who has been charged with bribing him.

Israel Radio reported Thursday that acting Attorney General Edna Arbel is in favor of indicting Mr. Sharon and is prepared to recommend doing so.

An indictment filed Wednesday against real estate developer David Appel alleges he gave Mr. Sharon a bribe in exchange for favors related to real estate projects.

Wednesday evening, Labor Party leader Shimon Peres called on Mr. Sharon to present his side of the story to the Israeli public. He told journalists, Israel is in a difficult time, and the situation requires the prime minister to give the people his version of events.

Justice Minister Yosef Lapid said the indictment filed against Mr. Appel does not necessarily have implications for either Mr. Sharon or Mr. Olmert. Mr. Lapid said in a statement that "the charge sheet against David Appel for bribing Sharon or Olmert, however, does not have any implications for either man.

Mr. Appel is alleged to have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to Prime Minister Sharon, his son Gilad and Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in what has been dubbed "The Greek Island Affair." The indictment alleges that Mr. Appel sought Mr. Sharon's influence to purchase a Greek Island resort at the end of the 1990's. At that time, Mr. Sharon was foreign minister and Mr. Appel was helping him in his bid to become leader of the Likud Party.

The indictment also alleges Mr. Appel later sought help to re-zone urban land near Tel Aviv, after Mr. Sharon became prime minister in 2001. Mr. Sharon was allegedly asked to use his influence, although neither the project in Greece nor the land deal near Tel Aviv went ahead.

In addition, the indictment charges Mr. Appel with bribing Mr. Olmert to promote the Greek project when Mr. Olmert was mayor of Jerusalem in the late 1990s.

Mr. Appel is also alleged to have hired the prime minister's son, Gilad Sharon, on the Greek Island project and continued to pay him even when it became clear the deal would not succeed.

A poll by the Haaretz newspaper published Thursday shows that 64 percent of Israelis believe Mr. Sharon would have to resign if he is indicted.