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State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss yesterday issued an interim order preventing the cabinet from appointing a new accountant general to replace Yaron Zelekha.

The cabinet was about to approve the appointment of Shuki Oren as the new accountant general at its session on Sunday.

As ombudsman, Lindenstrauss has the authority to grant protection to officials who uncover corruption.

Finance Minister Roni Bar-On said he would honor the interim order and would not bring Oren's appointment to the cabinet's approval on Sunday. This means that barring a change Zelekha will continue as accountant general even after the end of his four-year term next Thursday.

The state comptroller's move raised a commotion in the finance minister's bureau. Treasury officials had decided in past weeks that if the comptroller issued such an order, the treasury would petition the High Court of Justice against the comptroller. After discussing the matter with his aides yesterday, Bar-On dismissed this option.

Lindenstrauss said "there is no doubt that Zelekha has exposed corruption. There have been several attempts to oust him and the attorney general prevented it." He said that anyone who reveals government corruption would be protected by law and that this protection is an important step in curtailing corruption in the public sector.

In August, Bar-On announced that Zelekha's tenure would come to an end when his contract expired this month. The finance minister has stressed that Zelekha has not been fired, but said rather that the accountant general's tenure was simply coming to an end, and that he places "great importance on rotating personnel during terms".

Lindenstrauss found that Bar-On had not considered all the relevant aspects of the case. It also transpired that the rotation policy he spoke of did not include officials of this rank in the public service and treasury.

Zelekha uncovered the Bank Leumi affair involving Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and is considered a steadfast fighter against government corruption.