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Putin on alleged rapist Israel President: "We all envy him"

eitb 24 | October 20 2006

"Say hello to your president. He really surprised us...,'' Putin said to Olmert as reporters were being ushered out of the room just after the two men got down to their talks in the Kremlin.

Russian leader Vladimir Putin showed his taste for sharp humour when he met Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Moscow Wednesday, with an apparent ironic jab at the rape allegations swirling around the country's president.

"Say hello to your president. He really surprised us...,'' Putin said to Olmert as reporters were being ushered out of the room just after the two men got down to their talks in an ornate reception room in the Kremlin.

According to the information posted on The New York Times' Web site, Putin said that Katsav "turned out to be quite a powerful man. He raped 10 women. I never expected it from him. He surprised all of us. We all envy him."

Earlier this week, Israeli police recommended that President Moshe Katsav be charged with rape, aggravated sexual assault and misconduct after women who once worked for him filed complaints.

Katsav has denied any wrongdoing but the scandal has rocked Israel and sparked calls for his resignation.

Putin, who was praised later at a news conference by Olmert as a "world-famous leader,'' proved a tricky interlocutor, giving no ground to demands from the Israeli prime minister that Moscow take a tougher stance toward its ally Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program.

The Russian leader, renowned for his salty language, sometimes has made foreign guests uncomfortable in the past.

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