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Vice Premier Shimon Peres formally announced his candidacy for the state presidency Wednesday, during a special session of the Kadima faction.

"After much thought, I have decided to acquiesce to the requests that I be a candidate for the state presidency," said Peres, adding that it is "no secret" that this was a difficult decision for him.

"After all," he said. "I am not the youngest MK."

"I decided to accept this position after numerous requests, first and foremost by the prime minister, MKs, and many others, who have asked me to give a contribution, and I must say perhaps my last contribution ... in service of the state," he continued.

Peres said one of his primary goals would be to "strengthen the political order and stability. The nation needs calm."

The vice premier said he would work toward "national reconciliation, national equality and purity of ethics."

"The president does not have a lot of powers, but he has the authority to do good deeds and to express enthusiastic faith," he added.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Peres during the faction meeting that, "I promise you that until June 13 we will work all the time, without exhaustion, in order to ensure that the Knesset rises to the challenge."

"It can be said with certainty that Israel wants to have the honor of seeing Shimon Peres, who represents so much of what the people of Israel think is good and proper and respected, as the state president. He is a national asset of the State of Israel."

Acting President Dalia Itzik, who once was considered to be a presidential candidate, made it clear that she is backing Peres.

"I am completely certain that this is the right thing to do," she said. "People say that we MKs are disconnected from the public. The Knesset is allowed once to do the people's will, without almost or for the most part."

Itzik slammed Kadima MKs who do not intend to support Peres. "There are those who believe that they are God's messengers. Shimon, more than you need this institution, this institution needs you," she said.

The Knesset speaker did, however, criticize Peres for taking to long to decide, announcing his candidacy at the last minute.

Meanwhile, Likud presidential candidate MK Reuven Rivlin is expected to distribute a letter Wednesday attacking Peres, who his main rival for the post.

In his letter to the other MKs, Rivlin warns that electing Peres will not contribute to restoring the institution's public standing. The letter does not mention Peres by name, but it leaves no doubt that he is the subject.

"A blatantly political selection will transform the presidency into just another political position, and turning the presidency into a prize for lifetime achievement, or political compensation for past disappointments, will undermine the restoration of the presidency's public standing," Rivlin wrote.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Kadima MKs that electing Rivlin would serve only to strengthen Likud and its chairman Benjamin Netanyahu.

Olmert has promised Peres that he will put his full weight behind him.