Lithuania's economy minister to resign after allegations of promoting private interests

Lithuania's Economy Minister Viktor Uspaskich is resigning after an ethics commission found he had misused his office to promote private interests, a spokeswoman said.

Uspaskich, who is in Russia, informed the government Thursday he would step down from his office, but would contest the allegations in court, said Orijana Jakimauskiene, a spokeswoman for Uspaskich's Labor Party.

"He does not agree with the commission's findings and will challenge them in court," Jakimauskiene told The Associated Press. "He decided to step down for the good of the state but not because he is guilty or feels that he has done anything wrong."

It was not immediately clear what effect the resignation would have on Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas' four-party coalition government. Jakimauskiene said Uspaskich would also leave his seat in parliament, but would remain the leader of the Labor Party, which he founded in 2003.

Earlier Thursday, a parliamentary ethics commission declared its findings that Uspaskich had violated a law on separating public and private interests while in office.

The Russian-born economy minister was accused of trying to influence business deals in Moscow involving a company in which he had private interests.

President Valdas Adamkus had called on Uspaskich to resign, saying he had violated the law. Uspaskich faxed resignation letters to the prime minister and to the Parliament speaker on Thursday, Jakimauskiene said.

Uspaskich, who moved to Lithuania in the 1980s when it was part of the Soviet Union, was appointed economy minister in December 2004.

The four government parties are the Social Democrats, the center-left New Party, the newly created populist Labor Party and the leftist Peasants Union.

The coalition government was rocked already in April, when Finance Minister Algirdas Butkevicius resigned over a tax reform dispute.


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