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Israeli lawmakers call for probe into FM's secret trip to Vienna

Israeli lawmakers asked Israeli Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to open an investigation into the secret visit of the Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman to Vienna, Haaretz reported on Monday.

The newspaper revealed that Lieberman held "sensitive diplomatic meetings" over the weekend during a secret trip in Vienna, Austria.

It said he met with an Austrian Businessman Martin Schlaff, who had long been wanted for questioning by Israeli police on corruption charges.

"Most senior foreign ministry officials were not aware of the minister's side trip to Vienna on his way to Lithuania and the US," the newspaper added, "the Austrian foreign ministry was also surprised."

Labour Member of the Knesset Shelly Yachimovich said: "Lieberman has to disclose the reasons behind his visit to Vienna and meeting with Schlaff. If the aim of the visit was just to meet him, it is a bigger problem because the trip was paid for by the state and it is unacceptable to take private trips at the expense of taxpayers."

Yachimovich said the visit "smells bad" as Schlaff is wanted in Israel for several issues, including criminality, bribery, corruption and illegal deals.

"Such a trip is encircled with huge doubts and it seems it was aimed for personal political interests based on exploitation of state relations and the power of the foreign minister for personal interests," she said.

MK Issawi Frej yesterday sent a letter to Weinstein requesting he investigates Lieberman's secret trip because it was not organised by the foreign ministry.

Frej said if the trip was aimed at meeting Schlaff, Lieberman has to repay the state's expenses and be prosecuted for exploiting the resources of the state and the power of his position for personal interests.

Schlaff left Israel 10 years ago and did not return because of corruption allegations related to bribery worth millions of dollars paid to the government of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and others related to the current Foreign Minister Lieberman.

He has strong relations with many of the senior Israeli politicians and is able to affect Israeli policy through them.

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