Croatian government dismisses justice minister

Croatia 's prime minister dismissed Justice Minister Vesna Skare Ozbolt on Friday on the grounds she criticized her own government. Skare Ozbolt is a member of the Democratic Center party, which has been allied with Prime Minister Ivo Sanader's ruling conservative Croatian Democratic Union since its return to power in November 2003.

Within hours, parliament approved Sanader's new choice for justice minister, Ana Lovrin, a member of his party. Sanader's party lacks a majority in the chamber, but several smaller parties supported Lovrin as well. Sanader said he decided to oust Skare Ozbolt because "one cannot be a minister for five days in a week and then attack the same government at the press conference on the sixth day."

"That became a burden for both the government and her," he said. Skare Ozbolt said she was replaced because she was "too independent." She also insisted she infuriated Sanader's party recently by refusing to appoint the party's candidate for head of Zagreb district court, and instead chose one respected by the judicial staff.

"That must have been my serious crime," she told reporters. "And there are elections for about 200 heads of different courts ahead of us, so you can guess their (Sanader's) reasons." Croatian newspapers reported that Sanader had accused Skare Ozbolt of leaking confidential government documents to journalists. Skare Ozbolt denied the allegations.

Parliament swiftly approved Lovrin with 82 votes. Twenty-five were against it, and 15 abstained in the 151-seat chamber. Lovrin, a legal expert and a member of parliament since November 2003, previously was mayor of the central coastal city of Zadar , reports the AP.


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