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NETANYAHU CLEARED IN CORRUPTION CASE

Israel's attorney general cleared former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of corruption charges Wednesday, opening the way for a political comeback that could challenge Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein said in a 22-page written opinion, issued after months of deliberation, that he felt "discomfort" about the case but doubted that evidence was strong enough to stand up in court.

The decision will give little comfort to Palestinian leaders with whom Barak is trying to conclude an agreement to end 52 years of conflict. The peace process was severely strained during Netanyahu's term as prime minister from 1996 to 1999.

Police had recommended that Netanyahu, 50, be charged with accepting free services from a private contractor and keeping official gifts when he left office.

Barak's far-reaching peace proposals have lost him majority support in Parliament, and Netan-yahu's hard-line Likud party hopes to force him out once Parliament reconvenes Oct. 30.

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