Ehud Olmert Avigdor Lieberman - Tomer Appelbaum - 14112011
Ehud Olmert, right, with Avigdor Lieberman earlier this year. Photo by Tomer Appelbaum
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Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman demanded on Sunday that The Associated Press and Israel Defense magazine apologize for reporting he was denied access to sensitive information as Strategic Affairs Minister in the previous government. Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert spoke out in support of Lieberman and denied the reports.

On Sunday, Lieberman's lawyer Yaron Kostlitz sent letters to the Associated Press, the agency's reporter Diaa Hadid and to Israel Defense editor Amir Rapaport, threatening to file suit unless apologies were issued.

In its report on Saturday, The Associated Press cited a senior government official - speaking on condition of anonymity - saying that Lieberman had not been given full access to sensitive intelligence information during his term as Strategic Affairs Minister from October 2006 to January 2008.

That report, as well as another in Israel Defense magazine, raised the possibility that Lieberman was denied access because he is an immigrant from the former Soviet Union and, as such, had a lower security clearance.

"Minister Lieberman had the same access as (current Strategic Affairs ) Minister Moshe Ya'alon, and he was not denied access to any information," attorney Kostlitz wrote in the letter. "What was written constitutes libel."

Officials at Lieberman's office pointed to the fact that former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert also denied the reports.

In a letter addressed to the foreign minister, Olmert stated that during his tenure as premier, Lieberman had full access to information gathered by both the Mossad intelligence agency and the Shin Bet internal security organization. "At no point was any restriction imposed on passing intelligence, even the most sensitive, and I never received a report, a request or a recommendation from any intelligence official to limit your exposure to such information," Olmert wrote. But Olmert spokesman Jacob Galanti told The Associated Press on Sunday that in any case Israel's security agencies would not have had the right to withhold information from Lieberman due to any security clearance. "There is no security clearance for ministers in the state of Israel," Galanti said.

The Strategic Affairs Ministry and the Shin Bet agency denied comment Sunday, as did current government spokesman Mark Regev.