Israel: Olmert steps down, Livni given 42 days to form new government
The marginal 1% victory of financial cabinet minister Tzipi Livni in Kadima party leadership vote last week has caused Ehud Olmert, current primer minister of Israel, to resign today after nearly 3 years in office. Nominally, Olmert will retain political power until Livni forms a new government. In case Livni fails, Olmert will hang around until a general election is held next spring. He will also represent Israel in peace talks with Palestinians while the coalition business is being sorted out.
Mr Olmert must still submit his resignation to President Shimon Peres, who will grant Ms Livni 42 days to form a new government.
If Ms Livni fails to do so, she will face off against right-wing leader Benjamin Netanyahu in a general election that is expected to be held by March.
Olmert: "I hope that Tzipi Livni will succeed in forming a national government with the composition she wants... For my part, I will help her with all my strength."
Olmert was hit criticised for his handling of the 2006 war in Lebanon against Hezbollah, which ended without a decisive Isrsaeli blow against the Shia Muslim organisation.
He is also facing several allegations of corruption, with police investigating claims that he accepted cash payments from an American businessman before he became prime minister.
Should Livni succeed in forming a coalition, she would become the first female prime minister in Israel for 30 years.