October 30, 2008 - 8:00pm

Leading Israelis have condemned interviews by two televisions channels with the man who assassinated Israel's former Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin.

Short versions of the first interviews ever done from Yigal Amir's prison cell ran on Israeli television on Thursday.

Amir has been moved to solitary confinement and denied telephone use and conjugal visits as punishment.

The ultra-nationalist Jew, who opposed the Oslo peace process, has shown no remorse for shooting Rabin in 1995.

The telephone interviews were conducted without the knowledge of the prison service.

Excerpts were broadcast on Israel's Channel Two and Channel 10 on Thursday evening, a few days ahead of the 4 November anniversary of the killing.

But after widespread criticism, both channels later cancelled plans to run longer versions of the interview on Friday evening.

Deal 'a disaster'

In the interviews, Amir says his decision was influenced by the opinions of military figures at the time, including former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

"All the military experts said that the Oslo Accord was a disaster," Amir said, referring to the 1993 accords under which Israel agreed to cede control of parts of the West Bank to the Palestinians.

Rabin signed the deal with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Amir also said he began considering the idea when he saw Rabin at a wedding with only one bodyguard:

"I saw that it was so easy, and told myself that in several years I would regret not having killed him."

Defence Minister Ehud Barak was among those politicians and commentators who condemned the channels' actions.

"Yigal Amir ought to wither in prison for the rest of his life and he should under no condition be part of the mediatised public debate," he said in a statement.

Amir, who is serving a life sentence, has been quoted in occasional written interviews and there has been one case where he was briefly questioned in television footage.

Asked by a reporter during one of his courtroom appearances if he had any regrets about the assassination, he replied: "Yes.... Why didn't I do it earlier?"

The granting of permission for conjugal visits by Amir's wife, who he married secretly while in jail, has also been a controversial issue in Israel.


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