Czech minister quits over corruption allegations

PRAGUE Wed Dec 15, 2010 8:02am EST

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PRAGUE Dec 15 (Reuters) - Czech Environment Minister Pavel Drobil resigned on Wednesday following allegations that he tried to cover up corruption in his department.

His resignation came as parliament debated the 2011 budget and Prime Minister Petr Necas said he had asked Drobil to stay on for the final vote expected later in the day. Drobil is the first casualty for the centre-right coalition which took power in July after winning an election on promises to narrow the budget deficit and fight corruption.

Mlada fronta Dnes daily reported on Wednesday that Drobil had tried to sweep under the carpet accusations that his close colleagues attempted to influence money flows in a state environment fund. He denied any wrongdoing.

"Although I am convinced that I had not made any mistake other than in choosing some of my co-workers, I decided not to allow the abuse of this media affair to discredit the cabinet," Drobil told reporters.

The main centre-left opposition party said on Wednesday it would table a no-confidence motion against the government unless Drobil left.

The affair also irked a junior coalition party, the centrist Public Affairs. A party official said the scandal had to be dealt with before Wednesday night.

Parliament was due to vote in the final reading of the 2011 budget later in the day, planning to cut the deficit to 4.6 percent of gross domestic product from 5.1 percent expected this year.

The three-party coalition has 118 votes in the 200-seat lower house of parliament and the budget is expected to be approved smoothly.

Necas said he trusted Drobil and he could return to the cabinet if cleared in a police investigation. (Reporting by Robert Mueller, writing by Jan Lopatka; Editing by Maria Golovnina)

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