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New polish prime minister appointed by paul bremer { May 2 2004 }

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Last Updated: Sunday, 2 May, 2004, 13:17 GMT 14:17 UK
Polish PM keeps promise to quit

Polish Prime Minister Leszek Miller has resigned, a day after leading Poland into the new, enlarged European Union.

President Alexander Kwasniewski immediately designated former Finance Minister Marek Belka to replace him.

Mr Belka must now win a confidence vote in parliament within two weeks, or the country will face early elections.

Mr Miller promised in March to step down, as economic problems and a corruption scandal undermined support in his government.

The cabinet, Poland's eighth since the collapse of communism there 15 years ago, was formed in 2001 amid high hopes for change, but none has proved more unpopular.

Its approval rating is now about 4%.

Correspondents say the country's centre-right opposition looks likely to replace his Democratic Left Alliance at the next election, this year or next.

US backing

Marek Belka resigned from the government last July amid reports he had objected to the rejection of his plans to cut the budget deficit.

After a short spell managing the international relief effort in Iraq, he was picked by US administrator Paul Bremer to spearhead Iraq's economic recovery.
Polish banks and businesses are said to trust the former minister, a liberal economist.

Some see him as the natural choice to lead a Poland which wants to be both a partner to the US and a powerhouse in Europe.

If he wins the parliament's support, he will govern until scheduled polls in the summer of next year.

Last month a parliamentary investigation cleared Mr Miller, a former member of the Communist politburo, of involvement in a multi-million dollar bribery scandal.

He submitted the resignation of the government along with his own, but Mr Belka is expected to retain some ministers, including Economy Minister Jerzy Hausner and Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz.

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