Markus Schreiber  /  AP file
Israeli President Moshe Katsav addresses a meeting of officials of the German Jewish Community in this photo taken in Berlin, Monday, May 30, 2005. Israel's attorney general Meni Mazuz said Sunday Katsav was obligated to step aside pending the resolution of rape and other criminal allegations against him.
updated 10/29/2006 9:50:34 AM ET 2006-10-29T14:50:34

Israel’s attorney general said Sunday that President Moshe Katsav was obligated to step aside pending the resolution of rape and other criminal allegations against him.

Attorney General Meni Mazuz made the recommendation in a legal opinion given to the Supreme Court. However, the government does not have the power to remove Katsav from his mostly ceremonial position, Mazuz said.

“It is incorrect and inappropriate” for Katsav to continue serving under the current circumstances, Mazuz said.

Police recommended two weeks ago that the Katsav be indicted on charges including rape and aggravated sexual assault following an investigation into complaints by women who worked for the president.

They also recommended he be charged with fraud, malfeasance and illegal wiretapping, and he is still being investigated on suspicions of disrupting a police investigation and harassing a witness.

Katsav, 60, has denied the allegations and said he was the victim of a conspiracy. The president’s office declined to comment Sunday on Mazuz’s recommendation.

Mazuz said that a president should temporarily step aside in any situation where there is a pending criminal investigation.

“Of course, the more serious the allegations and the farther along in the process, the obligation increases for the president to take the step of temporarily suspending his term,” he said.

Mazuz has the final say about whether to indict Katsav, but the attorney general said Sunday that he will not make such a decision for several more weeks.

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