Olmert Aide Under House Arrest

Olmert says country is flooded with 'mean and vicious rumors,' while his aide is under house arrest.

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Gil Ronen ,

AG Menachem Mazuz.
AG Menachem Mazuz.

Shula Zaken, one of the suspects in the case being investigated against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, was sent to house arrest until Friday by a court, several news websites reported Sunday. Zaken, who was Olmert's bureau chief and confidante from the time he was Mayor of Jerusalem until last year, has been under house arrest since last Tuesday, according to these reports.

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, State Attorney Moshe Lador, and Maj.-Gen. Yochanan Danino, who heads the Police Investigations and Intelligence Department, published a statement Sunday evening saying the gag order imposed on the investigation must remain in place - for now.  They promised that they would "continue to closely follow developments with the aim of making it possible to give the public additional information, as long as this can be done without impeding the investigation."

Observers noted that the harsh steps taken by Mazuz, including Zaken's house arrest, the gag order and the short (48 hour) warning given the Prime Minister before his interrogation Friday, indicate that the inve
Olmert: "When matters are checked fully by the proper authorities, they will be placed in their proper proportion."
stigators feel they have a strong case against Olmert.

'Mean and Vicious Rumors'
At the start of Sunday's cabinet session, Olmert gave a short account of his interrogation Friday, at his residence. "The investigators behaved in a proper and respectable manner," he said. "Unfortunately, due to circumstances that do not depend on me, the country is being flooded by a wave of rumors regarding the investigation. I promise that when matters are checked fully by the proper authorities, they will be placed in their proper proportion and their proper and accurate context, and this will put an end to the rumors." 

Some of the rumors being spread are "mean and vicious," Olmert said. "I promise that when things clear up the suspicions will be removed and the cloud will clear."

'64 Remaining MKs'
"Indeed, a state of things in which a serving Prime Minister is interrogated under warning... creates difficulties in the public and legal spheres."

Likud Knesset faction chairman, MK Gidon Saar, joined other parliamentarians in voicing support for early elections, in the face of Olmert's troubles. The fact that three Pensioners MKs left the coalition added to Saar's optimism. "There are 64 MKs remaining in the coalition and it doesn't look like any more will join it," Saar told Arutz Sheva radio. "There are several no-confidence motions and when we estimate that there is a chance to pass a resolution to bring down the government, we will do so." 

Saar reminded the listeners that a no-confidence measure which is struck down cannot be re-submitted for an extended period of time.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni made her first public reference Sunday to the new, secret probe against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

"We need to wait and see," Livni said. "The right thing that we can do at this point is to allow the investigative bodies to do their job," she added. Livni said she has full confidence in the law enforcement agencies and voiced hope that the investigation would end soon. She spoke to reporters after her meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Gaydamak to Join Government?
Meanwhile, billionaire Arcadi Gaydamak launched his new faction, Justice for the Pensioners, and held a press conference Sunday with its three Knesset members, who broke off from the Pensioners party. Gaydamak spoke of the possibility that the three MKs would rejoin the coalition as a separate faction and receive a government ministry which he would presumably head.

"I am convinced that the Justice for the Pensioners party MKs will be in charge of a ministry that will take care of the social subjects in the government," Gaydamak said. When asked if he would be willing to be Minister for the Diaspora he said, without hesitation, "if they offer it to me, then yes."

Regarding the post of Diaspora Minister, Gaydamak said he has experience with the subject of the Jewish community. He also mentioned the possibility of becoming a Minister for Jerusalem.



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