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Estonia: Premier Formally Steps Down

Tallinn, 8 January 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Estonia's Prime Minister Mart Laar formally leaves office today, which automatically means the resignation of the government. He abruptly announced his resignation before Christmas, saying friction in his center-right coalition made governing impossible. He will, however, remain a caretaker until a new government is formed.

President Arnold Ruutel will now have 14 days to designate a new prime minister to form the next government and send his choice to parliament for approval.

The center-right Reform and left-wing Center Party are thought to have the best chance of creating a new coalition over the next few weeks.

Since he first became prime minister at the age of 32 after the 1991 Soviet collapse, Laar has become a leading proponent of free-market reforms, with policies to slash subsidies and taxes, and his devotion to balanced budgets.