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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 December, 2003, 15:23 GMT
Lithuania's president faces axe
President Rolandas Paksas
President Rolandas Paksas denies the allegations
Impeachment proceedings against Lithuanian President Rolandas Paksas have begun.

Mr Paksas is accused of violating the constitution and having links with organised crime. He denies the allegations and has vowed to stay on.

But a petition backing impeachment was signed by 86 deputies in the 141-seat parliament and handed in on Thursday.

Parliament is now starting to set up a 12-member committee of deputies and lawyers to consider the charges.

Under Lithuanian law, the signatures of 36 members of parliament are enough to initiate impeachment, but 85 votes are required to remove a president from office.

Search for truth

If the committee agrees that the charges are justified, the decision to impeach the president will be put to a vote. If Mr Paksas is then voted out of office new elections could be held within 60 days.

We accuse the president of breaching the constitution and his oath
Raimondas Sukys, member of parliament
The impeachment document says Mr Paksas posed a threat to national security, leaked state secrets, obstructed the work of state institutions and let top aides abuse their office.

Parliamentary speaker Arturas Paulauskas, an opponent of Mr Paksas, said the deputies "wanted to demonstrate the parliament's resolve and mood" to show Mr Paksas had no chance of holding on to power.

Raimondas Sukys, a member of the four-party group which collected the signatures, told parliament: "All who signed the text want to find out the truth."

"We accuse the president of breaching the constitution and his oath, of being vulnerable and so posing a threat to national security."


A report by a parliamentary commission, published earlier this month, said the president's office had links to organised crime and Russian secret services.

It said the situation posed a threat to national security.

There have been large demonstrations demanding the resignation of Mr Paksas, a Soviet-trained stunt pilot.

Mr Paksas denies any wrongdoing and says he will not resign.

The storm is seen as embarrassing to Lithuania as it prepares to join the European Union and Nato.

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02 Dec 03  |  Country profiles
Lithuania set to impeach leader
16 Dec 03  |  Europe

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