'Not enough evidence' to prosecute Sharon

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The Independent Online

An interim legal report issued yesterday found that prosecutors lack enough evidence to charge the Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, in a bribery scandal, Israeli television said.

An interim legal report issued yesterday found that prosecutors lack enough evidence to charge the Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, in a bribery scandal, Israeli television said.

Channel Two television quoted the report from a panel appointed by Menachem Mazuz, the attorney general, to investigate whether to press charges that could topple the Israeli leader.

The case centres on bribery charges brought against an Israeli businessman. Prosecutors said he hired Mr Sharon's son, Gilad, in 1999 and paid him to persuade his father, then foreign minister, to promote property deals, including a Greek island resort. Nothing came of the business plan.

Mr Sharon and his son have denied any wrongdoing.

The Channel Two report will come as a much-needed fillip for Mr Sharon as he struggles to convince his Likud party to back his proposal on withdrawal from the Gaza strip.

Mr Sharon personally called a string of Likud officials yesterday and told them he considered an upcoming party referendum on his plan a personal vote of confidence. Under the proposal, Israel would pull all its settlements and military installations out of the Gaza Strip and remove four Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

Mr Sharon has won US backing for the plan, but a poll of 620 party faithful published last week showed 49 per cent of the roughly 200,000 Likud members in favour of the plan, with 39.5 per cent against.

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