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Romanian Foreign Minister quits in dispute with PM

Romanian Foreign Minister Mihai Ungureanu said he will step down, the second top official to leave the government in a dispute with the prime minister since Romania joined the European Union on January 1.

Ungureanu, will offer his resignation today after disagreements with Prime Minister Calin Tariceanu, Ungureanu said in comments today broadcast on Antena 1 television. He cited „differences of opinion” with Tariceanu. „Mihai Ungureanu will remain in his position until we find a replacement,” Tariceanu said at a news conference, indicating he will accept the resignation.
A feud between the main parties in the ruling coalition intensified in the past month after simmering before EU entry. The clashes between the Democratic Party, which supports President Traian Basescu, and Tariceanu's Liberal Party have led some politicians to call for early elections. Over the weekend, Tariceanu blamed Ungureanu, for telling Basescu, and not him, that US soldiers arrested two Romanians in Iraq last November on spy charges.
Ungureanu, a Liberal, said he told Basescu, who heads the National Security Council, because the arrested men didn't work for the government. The men, accused of violating regulations by photographing US military bases, have been released. Last month, Tariceanu and Basescu clashed when Basescu said on January 18 that Tariceanu attempted to persuade him to intervene in a court case against a prominent businessman. Tariceanu said the accusation was „a lie.”

Ungureanu's first row with Tariceanu was last June when the prime minister said he wanted all Romanian troops to withdraw from Iraq, where they support US coalition forces. Ungureanu said he supported keeping the 890 solders there, allying himself with Basescu on the issue. Basescu, as supreme commander of the armed forces, rejected a withdrawal. On January 19, Tariceanu fired Sebastian Bodu, a Democrat and the head of the tax administration agency, after Bodu criticized government tax policy.
In December, Economy Minister Codrut Seres and Deputy Prime Minister Bogdan Pascu quit when their Conservative Party withdrew from the ruling coalition, leaving the government with minority support in parliament. Later the same month, more than 20 lawmakers with Tariceanu's Liberals split from the party to form their own group, saying Tariceanu no longer represents their values. They joined the newly created Liberal Democrat Party, which tends to support Basescu. (Bloomberg)