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Brazil's attorney general asks for Rousseff probe

Brazil's attorney general has asked the country's highest court to authorise an investigation into embattled president Dilma Rousseff over obstruction of justice allegations, according to major Brazilian news organisations.

Ms Rousseff was among 30 people targeted by attorney general Rodrigo Janot's requests, the country's top newspapers and the Globo television network said.

Others included ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and solicitor general Jose Eduardo Cardozo, as well as opposition politician Aecio Neves, who lost to Ms Rousseff in the 2014 presidential race, and house speaker Eduardo Cunha.

Mr Janot's request adds to problems buffeting Ms Rousseff. The senate looks likely to vote next week to suspend her and move forward with impeachment. If that happens, vice president Michel Temer would take over for six months or until the conclusion of the impeachment trial.

Ms Rousseff is suspected of trying to undermine the snowballing investigation into corruption at the state-run oil company Petrobras by appointing her predecessor, Mr Silva, as her chief of staff this year, the media reports say. Mr Silva's nomination was later suspended.

Rio de Janeiro's O Globo newspaper reported that Mr Janot's request accuses Mr Silva of being the ringleader behind the massive scheme that saw top construction firms pay bribes in exchange for inflated contracts with Petrobras, with some of the money ending up in the coffers of political parties from across the ideological spectrum. The case has already ensnared leading politicians and businessmen.

"This criminal organisation could never have functioned for so many years and in such a wide and aggressive manner within the federal government without ex-president Lula's taking part in it," the newspaper quoted Mr Janot's petition as saying.

The reports say the requests grew out of the plea bargain evidence by senator Delcidio do Amaral, formerly the government's leader in the senate, who was detained after recordings emerged suggesting he was plotting to spirit a key player in the Petrobras scandal out of the country.

Mr Silva and Ms Rousseff have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

Ms Rousseff on Wednesday cast doubt on Mr Amaral's evidence, saying the senator "is in the habit of lying".

She added that the leaked news of Mr Janot's requests appeared to have been timed to do maximum damage to her and her close collaborators.

The senate's impeachment commission was expected to vote this week on whether to recommend impeaching Ms Rousseff, with the decisive vote by the full senate set for next Wednesday.

Teori Zavascki, the Supreme Court justice in charge of the Petrobras investigation, will decide whether to honour Mr Janot's requests, though the news reports say there is no timetable for a decision.

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