Croatian Scandal

Article excerpt

Byline: James Morrison, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Croatian scandal

Croatia's former ambassador to the United States resigned this week from his post as foreign minister because of a corruption scandal that threatened his party's chances in the Jan. 16 presidential runoff election.

Miomir Zuzul, ambassador here from 1996 to 2001, repeatedly has denied charges that he received bribes through the privatization of government assets in the 1990s.

"I have decided to step down from the position of foreign minister," he said Tuesday in a letter to Prime Minister Ivo Sanader, according to reports from Zagreb, the Croatian capital.

"The damage in the eyes of the public has been done. If I were to remain, it would become too big a burden for both the government and the ministry that I am heading."

Mr. Sanader asked him to remain as foreign minister until he can appoint a replacement.

Deputy Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor, who is trailing incumbent President Stipe Mesic in the runoff, complained that the scandal hurt her campaign.

"I welcome Mr. Zuzul's decision, which shows that he has a good sense of political reality and is taking into account national interests," she said. "Regardless of the real facts, the perception in the public is what matters in politics."

In his letter, Mr. Zuzul said he is "proud and satisfied with what I have achieved in the past year." He helped prepare Croatia for negotiations to enter the European Union, which it hopes to join by 2010.

Mr. Zuzul often had a difficult time in Washington when he represented President Franjo Tudjman and the Clinton administration frequently complained of Mr. Tudjman's autocratic policies.

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