By Sergio Goncalves
LISBON, April 21 (Reuters) - Portugal's Prime Minister Antonio Costa on Wednesday urged all political rivals to unite in passing laws against corruption, a topic of much recent debate after a judge dropped graft charges against a former premier from Costa's Socialist party.
Two weeks ago, in a decision that shocked many, judge Ivo Rosa of Portugal's criminal court ruled Jose Socrates would stand trial on charges of money laundering and faking documents, but dismissed all the corruption accusations.
Socrates, who led the government from 2005 to 2011, has denied any wrongdoing, labelling the investigation as politically motivated.
"Perhaps, it is time for all political leaders to understand that (the fight against) corruption should not be a factor of division, it must be a factor of unity among all," Costa told reporters on the fringes of the Ibero-American summit in Andorra.
He did not make a specific reference to the Socrates case, which provoked an outcry against the judge and what many perceive as impunity of the political class.
"It is the only way for citizens to feel confident in the institutions ... (political leaders) should not see corruption as a political throwing weapon," he said, adding that the cabinet will approve next week a national anti-corruption strategy.
Last week, the judges' union submitted to parliament a proposal to create a law that would criminalise any unjustified enrichment of politicians and public administration officials, focusing on combating the concealment of wealth.
Portugal last year fell three positions in Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index, with the worst score ever for the country, placing it in 33rd position out of 180 countries.
In a report in September, the European Commission criticised Portugal's "patchwork manner" of response to corruption, addressing problems as they were revealed but without a coordinated strategic approach. (Reporting by Sergio Goncalves; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)
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