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Estonia: Parliament Approves New Prime Minister

Tallinn, 22 January 2002 (RFE/RL) -- The Estonian parliament today elected Siim Kallas to be the country's new prime minister. The 101-seat chamber voted 62-31 and gave a mandate to the Reform Party leader to form a new cabinet. Kallas has one week to present his cabinet to President Arnold Ruutel, who under the constitution has the power to appoint ministers to their offices.

The free-market Reform Party and the more socially oriented Centrist Party have formed a government coalition in which the Center Party will have eight ministers and the Reform Party five.

Kallas replaces Mart Laar, who resigned on 8 January over infighting sparked by the Reform Party in his center-right government coalition. Until the new cabinet gets final approval, a caretaker administration headed by Laar remains in place.

Kallas has two weeks to win a final parliamentary approval before he can take power. Addressing legislators before the vote, the 53-year-old said European integration will be his top priority.