Bulgarian interior minister steps down amid corruption row

(dpa) - Bulgarian Interior Minister Rumen Petkov submitted his resignation Sunday in the wake of a corruption row and amid demands from the right-wing opposition over allegations of connections to organized crime.
Speaking to reporters in Sofia, Petkov said he did not want to be the cause of "tension in the interior ministry" and expressed hope that his resignation would restore "normal conditions" there.
His move came after the Socialist government survived a no- confidence vote on Friday brought by the opposition in alleging the government had close ties to organized crime. It was the fifth no- confidence vote targeting Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev's government since it took office in 2005.
Petkov, 46, is also the deputy party chief of the governing Socialists.
Following the vote, Stanishev vowed to introduce adequate measures to allow the Interior Ministry to work effectively.
Stanishev praised Sunday Petkov's resignation which he would accept as part of a cabinet reshuffle and stressed that the country needed a "strong government".
The mayor of Sofia Bojo Borissov and founder of the opposition GERB party said Petkov's move had come "extraordinarily late" and called for new elections. Recent polls have indicated that the party is now the strongest in Bulgaria.
Stanishev admitted that there had been scandals involving "corrupt colleagues with connections to organized crime and the shadow economy" and added that "we all see the necessity of reform."
A report by the European Union in February criticized Bulgaria for its reluctance to tackle organized crime. The next such report is due out in June.
Brussels suspended some aid for Bulgaria's farming and agriculture over allegations of corruption and embezzlement related to EU funds.

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