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Attorney General Menachem Mazuz on Sunday approved Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's appointment of former Mossad chief Nahum Admoni to head a governmental war probe even though the premier personally named Admoni's wife to three separate civil service posts in the past, officials said Sunday.
The eagerly-sought approval by Israel's top law enforcement official, which was made after he determined that the appointment did not represent a conflict of interest, came as the premier moved to replace two other panel members nixed by the Attorney General last week.
Channel 2 news reported Sunday that Olmert had approached Maj.-Gen (res) Haim Erez, Maj. Gen Herzl Shapir, a former Israel police chief, and Maj.-Gen. (res) Ze'ev Livne, as possible replacements, with two of them expected to join the war panel, pending their approval by the attorney general.
Despite the attorney general's approval, the revelations over the premier's connection with the wife of former Mossad chief Nahum Admoni were likely to further increase public pressure on the beleaguered premier to appoint a state commission of inquiry into the government's handling of the war.
In a sign of growing intra-governmental tension, Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz publicly urged the premier to immediately appoint a state probe, in a direct face off with Olmert.
Army Radio reported Sunday that in his previous position as minister of trade, Olmert twice chose Nina Admoni for a seat on an unspecified board of directors, and also appointed her as an observer on a special Trade Ministry panel responsible for granting permits to foreign corporations.
The radio also reported that Nina Admoni serves as the representative of an American company, which has commercial ties with Boeing, which supplies aircraft parts to the Israel Air Force.
The Movement for Quality Government in Israel, which has been leading a public campaign to establish a state commission of inquiry into the government's handling of the war, had immediately urged Admoni to remove his candidacy from the post due to his wife's connections with the premier in the past.
Eliad Shraga, the head of the respected government watchdog group, said Sunday night after the attorney general's decision that the organization was considering launching a petition to the High Court of Justice against the move.
Olmert has repeatedly resisted growing calls for a sweeping independent probe into the 34-day war.
Last week, Mazuz nixed Olmert's appointment of former navy commander Maj-Gen. (res.) Yedidya Ya'ari, the CEO of Rafael Armaments Development Authority, as well as former air force chief Maj.-Gen. (res.) David Ivry, who is now Boeing's Israel Representative, to one of two governmental probes into the war against Hizbullah due to a conflict of interests.
The ruling by the country's top law enforcement official against the controversial appointment of the two men comes one day after the Movement for Quality Government in Israel petitioned the High Court of Justice against the move and follows the embarrassing breakup of a previous governmental panel appointed by Defense Minister Amir Peretz to look into the military's performance in the wake of widespread criticism that he was trying to control the inquiry.