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World News

FACTBOX: Facts about Israeli leader Ehud Olmert

(Reuters) - Israeli police said on Sunday they had recommended to prosecutors that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert be indicted in a corruption investigation.

Following are some facts about Olmert’s political career.

* Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas relaunched Israeli-Palestinian peace talks at a U.S.-backed conference in November after a seven-year hiatus and agreed to try to reach an agreement on Palestinian statehood by the end of this year. The talks have made little progress. In May, Olmert disclosed that indirect talks with Syria, mediated by Turkey, were under way.

* Olmert has been dogged by financial scandals. U.S. businessman Morris Talansky testified in an Israeli court in May that he had given Olmert $150,000 in cash over a 15-year period. Both men have denied any wrongdoing. Olmert has said the funds were legitimate contributions to election campaigns he waged before becoming prime minister in 2006, but said he would resign if indicted.

* Olmert is committed to resigning after his Kadima party holds a leadership vote on September 17.

* Olmert served as mayor of Jerusalem from 1993 to 2003 and used the position to champion building Jewish enclaves in Arab parts of the city. In younger days he spent his mandatory military service as a reporter due to health problems, seeing combat only from afar. He entered parliament aged 28 and, in his 30s, briefly re-enlisted to take an officers’ course. He has also had a legal career.

* He joined former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in leaving the right-wing Likud party in 2005 to form Kadima and became leader when Sharon suffered a stroke in January 2006. Kadima won elections two months later. Olmert refused to resign after a scathing official report on the conduct of the 2006 war against Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas.

* Olmert faces police probes in other corruption affairs in which he denies wrongdoing. They relate to his conduct before becoming prime minister and include accusations he dispensed favors in return for a discount on the 2004 purchase price of a Jerusalem home. He also faces allegations that as trade minister in 2003 he appointed cronies to a state business authority. In November, police concluded there was insufficient evidence to pursue complaints over his role in the sale of state-owned Bank Leumi when serving as finance minister.

* A keen runner, sports fan and fitness fanatic, he is now 62. His approval ratings got a boost last October when he announced he had early-stage prostate cancer. He plans to have surgery to remove the growth. Olmert and his artist wife Aliza have four children.

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