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As the June 13 Knesset election of the president draws near, with the candidate field wide open, the leading names are still weighing their options.

Last night, Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai came to the home of the city's chief rabbi, former Ashkenazi chief rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, and pleaded with him not to submit his name as a presidential candidate. On Sunday, a delegation of rabbis and religious judges visited Lau's home and made the same request.

And yesterday it was reported that Acting President Dalia Itzik met secretly last Friday in Jerusalem with Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, for a conversation that touched on the presidential vote, among other issues.

Huldai told Lau that since the latter became municipal chief rabbi two years ago, a sense of unity has bound together Tel Aviv's various communities and the city's religious council and chief rabbinate are operating smoothly and calmly.

"The move to another position, however high and exalted and respected, is liable to send the religious system in the city into a superfluous and harmful tailspin," Huldai reportedly told Lau.

For his part, Lau reportedly responded to Huldai that people from all sectors of society had expressed a desire that he represent them in the President's Residence but emphasized that he had not announced his candidacy nor done anything to promote his election.

Aides surprised

Aides to Vice Premier Shimon Peres said they were surprised to hear of Itzik's meeting with Yosef. Sources in Shas said that Itzik was looking for support from Yosef for her own presidential bid, in the event that Peres decides not to run.

Itzik and Peres met on Sunday to discuss Peres' presidential hopes. Peres reportedly told the acting president that he intended to run but had not yet made an official announcement on the matter.