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Israeli PM Ehud Olmert Announces Resignation
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Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (R) shakes hands with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni during the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem September 21, 2008. [Photo: Xinhua/Reuters]

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Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will submit his resignation on Sunday evening, his office said in a statement.

The statement said that Olmert will call on President Shimon Peres at 19:30 (1630 GMT) at the latter's residence in Jerusalem in order to submit his letter of resignation.

Hours earlier, the outgoing premier announced at a weekly cabinet meeting that he would resign from the premiership as he promised, saying that "It's not an easy decision, but I believe I am doing the right thing, as I promised the people of Israel."

Olmert, whose premiership has been dogged by a series of police investigations, made the announcement days after the ruling Kadima party voted to replace him with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni as leader of the three-year-old centrist party.

Should Olmert formally resign in the evening, Peres would be left with just a short while to conduct consultations with parliamentary factions and empower a lawmaker, most probably Livni, to form a new government, as he is scheduled to leave on Monday for the UN General Assembly in New York.

Yet local daily Ha'aretz reported that Peres has said that he would postpone his trip to the Unite States if necessary.

Following his resignation, Olmert would become caretaker prime minister and remain in power until the formation of a new government. The lawmaker tasked with setting up a new cabinet has at most 42 days to finish this mission.

During the cabinet meeting, Olmert pledged that he would help Livni to establish a government, who, as Kadima's third and first woman leader, has already started the cabinet-making efforts.

Livni said at a Kadima meeting on Sunday morning that Israel needs to form a stable government as soon as possible, preferably a national unity government, and she expects the current ruling coalition partners to act accordingly.

Yet as a sign of the difficulties she may face, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, chair of the main coalition partner Labor, who met Saturday with opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, called on Sunday for the establishment of an emergency government.

Should the cabinet-making efforts fail, an early general elections would be held, possibly in the spring. Recent opinion polls showed that Netanyahu's Likud party would emerge as the largest winner in snap elections.


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