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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Israeli President Asked to Tender Resignation

JERUSALEM -- Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Wednesday called on embattled President Moshe Katsav to resign after the attorney general announced his intention to press criminal charges, including rape, against him.

"Under these circumstances, there is no doubt in my mind that the president cannot continue to fulfill his position and he must leave the president's residence," Olmert said at the beginning of a policy speech at a security conference.

Katsav angrily defended himself Wednesday against the accusations, calling them "poisonous, horrible lies" and pledging to remain in office to fight them.

The president, however, he said he would step down if he were officially charged.

"Don't believe the libel, the defamation, the lies. There is only one truth ... I am the target of one of the worst attacks in the history of the state of Israel," he said.

With his voice cracking, an increasingly angry Katsav blamed a media smear campaign -- aided by the police -- for his troubles and said he would "fight to my last breath, even if it means a world war, to clear my name."

At one point he screamed at a television reporter in the audience, saying he should be ashamed of himself for his coverage of the scandal.

Katsav has faced growing pressure to resign since Attorney General Meni Mazuz announced Tuesday that he planned to charge the president with a raft of crimes stemming from accusations by former female staffers that Katsav forced them to have sex with him.

"I did not commit any of the acts that are attributed to me," he said.

Katsav will be given a chance to present his side to Mazuz before the attorney general makes a final decision on whether to charge him.

"If the attorney general decides on an indictment ... I promise to resign immediately," he said.

Katsav, who was born in Iran, implied that the charges against him were motivated by racism against Israelis of Middle Eastern origin, who had traditionally been marginalized by Jews of European heritage.

"I saw myself as a symbol for all those who are not part of the elite clique born with silver spoons in their mouths ... who believe that only they can represent the people of Israel," he said.