Israel to press Bush for spy release

AFP January 7, 2008

JERUSALEM (AFP) - Israel's Deputy Prime Minister Eli Yishai plans to petition US President George W. Bush during his visit this week to Israel to release jailed spy and former US Pentagon official Jonathan Pollard.

"Eli Yishai will hand President Bush a written request from chief rabbi Ovadia Yossef asking for the release of Jonathan Pollard," a spokesman for Yishai told AFP.

Pollard is serving a

life sentence

for passing thousands of secret documents about US spy activities in the Arab world to Israel between May 1984 and his arrest in November 1985.

The issue of Pollard, a US-born Jew who has taken Israeli citizenship while in prison, has been a thorn in the side of relations between Israel and its main ally Washington.

Yossef is the spiritual guide of the Shas party led by Yishai.

Bush arrives in Israel on Wednesday at the start of an eight-day Middle East tour, which will also take him to the West Bank and five Arab nations.