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Israeli Arab Minister Resigns Amid Corruption Scandal

January 28, 2002|From Times Wire Services

JERUSALEM — Israel's first Arab Cabinet minister, whose nomination in March raised hopes for rapprochement between the country's Jewish and Arab citizens, resigned Sunday amid reports he would face corruption charges.

Salah Tarif, a minister without portfolio from the moderate Labor Party, is suspected of passing $5,000 from a Palestinian businessman who was trying to obtain Israeli citizenship to a senior Interior Ministry official, according to Israeli media reports.

Tarif has emphatically denied the allegations since they surfaced last year, but media reported last week that Atty. Gen. Elyakim Rubinstein was preparing to remove Tarif's immunity so he could be indicted. Rubinstein's office said a statement on the issue would be issued shortly.

"Sadly, the recent false reports and the attorney general's determination to bring the libel against me to court prevent me from continuing to contribute in matters that are important for all of us," Tarif wrote in the resignation letter he handed Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Sunday. The resignation takes effect Tuesday.

Tarif--who practices the Druze religion, an offshoot of Islam--was a paratrooper before entering parliament. Sharon has not named a replacement for him.

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