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IN SHORT

Smer nominee steps down from Transpetrol

VLADIMÍR Balaník, who was named vice-president of the board of directors of Slovakia's crude-oil pipeline operator Transpetrol only two weeks ago, has stepped down from his post.

Balaník was nominated to Transpetrol by the ruling Smer party along with six other men. The appointment was criticized because Balaník is a business associate of entrepreneur Juraj Široký, who is believed to be a sponsor of Smer.

According to Economy Minister Ľubomír Jahnátek, pressure by the political opposition contributed to Balaník's decision to step down.

In a similar development, Smer candidate Miloslav Lužák, who was recently named president of the railway company ZSSK Cargo Slovakia, has also decided to resign. Lužák is a business associate of reputed Smer sponsor Vladimír Poór.

According to PM Robert Fico, more resignations could follow. "Some people have difficulty coping with the attention the media pay to them despite the fact they have done nothing bad, and I expect that other people will behave in a similar way".

Fico said the nominees had been named to these posts because of their skills as experts, not due to their political connections.

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