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Latvia: Prime Minister Submits Resignation

By Pavils Bruvers

Riga, 20 January 1997 (RFE/RL) - Latvian Prime Minister Andris Shkele says he is resigning over criticism about his ethical standards in nominations for government posts.

Shkele told a news conference in Riga today that he had handed in his resignation to President Guntis Ulmanis. Shkele, as reported, did not say if the resignation was accepted.

Shkele said he was resigning after "the president and the political elite accused me of pressing upon them amoral decisions".

He has been accused over the past week of pressing both parliament and the president to approve businessman Vassily Melnik as finance minister, amid allegations that Melnik had been involved in improper business activities. Melnik was approved as minister last Thursday.

The Baltic News Service reported today that Melnik offered to resign if his resignation could help to preserve the current government.

Shkele, a technocrat not affiliated with any political party, became prime minister in February 1996 at the head of an eight-party coalition. He said he had done all in his power to achieve the government's aims but he had concluded this task had proved too difficult.

Shkele expressed regret to leave a job successfully started but also also said he was satisfied that he was handing over the state in a much better condition. He said his conscience is clear.