Avigdor Lieberman resigns as Israel F.M.

Dec. 14, 2012 at 1:53 PM
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JERUSALEM, Dec. 14 (UPI) -- Avigdor Lieberman resigned Friday as Israel's foreign minister and deputy prime minister, saying he needs to put his energy into clearing his name.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said he will "keep the portfolio in trust," Ynetnews reported. The prime minister said that if it is legally possible he will return Lieberman to the cabinet.

Lieberman faces a charge of breach of trust for allegedly promoting the career of a former ambassador to Belarus, Ze'ev Ben Aryeh, who had passed information to him about an investigation there. In a statement, Lieberman proclaimed his innocence and said his lawyers advised him his resignation is not required, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported.

"After 16 years of having various investigations held against me, I wish to end this matter without delay and clear my name completely," Lieberman said.

"I believe that the Israeli public deserves to go to the ballots after this matter has been settled, meaning with a ruling given before the elections, so I can continue serving the State of Israel and its public as part of a strong, united leadership."

Lieberman, 54, was born in the former Soviet Union and emigrated to Israel in 1978. He is founder and head of the right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party, which is based among Russian immigrants.

Israel's attorney general announced earlier this week that a decade-old investigation into money laundering and fraud was being closed with no charges against Lieberman, but said he would seek an indictment on the breach of trust charge.

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