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Political soup hotter as Hamžík resigns

While Slovakia's botched referenda on NATO and the direct presidential election baffled almost everyone, one thing emerged clearly: the flame got turned up under Slovakia's political goulash.
A major fallout from the failed public vote was the resignation of a cabinet member, Foreign Minister Pavol Hamžík. Hours before that, Kováč singled out Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar as the person who thwarted the referendum at a news conference on May 26, .
"I have to state that the biggest responsibility for Slovakia's worsening international reputation and for thwarting its chances of integrating into NATO and the European Union is borne by the current ruling coalition and personally by Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar," Kováč told a news conference. "[Under his leadership], Slovakia is under imminent threat of becoming isolated internationally."

While Slovakia's botched referenda on NATO and the direct presidential election baffled almost everyone, one thing emerged clearly: the flame got turned up under Slovakia's political goulash. A major fallout from the failed public vote was the resignation of a cabinet member, Foreign Minister Pavol Hamžík. Hours before that, Kováč singled out Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar as the person who thwarted the referendum at a news conference on May 26, .

"I have to state that the biggest responsibility for Slovakia's worsening international reputation and for thwarting its chances of integrating into NATO and the European Union is borne by the current ruling coalition and personally by Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar," Kováč told a news conference.

"[Under his leadership], Slovakia is under imminent threat of becoming isolated internationally."

Kováč then called on Mečiar to resign, along with Interior Minister Gustáv Krajči, who ordered the distribution of the three-question ballots. Mečiar's spokeswoman Magda Pospišílová said the premier considered Kováč's call to resign as irrelevant, according to a report from the Slovak press agency.

On the same day Kováč spoke out, Foreign Minister Pavol Hamžík tendered his resignation to Mečiar's government. He served in the post since being nominated by the cabinet in August 1996.

"Current internal developments in Slovakia, but especially the circumstances surrounding the referendum...have to the maximum possible degree diminished my space to maneuver in pursuing our state's foreign policy objectives," Hamžík said in a prepared statement. "Therefore, I see no more reason to serve as foreign minister."

Hamžík claimed that NATO tasters around the table couldn't have possibly liked the broth. "I expected that the referendum would send an extremely important signal from Slovakia that would lay the groundwork for the [NATO] alliance to reevaluate its stance toward our accession," Hamžík wrote. "The circumstances around the referendum have interfered with this signal."

Leaders of the eight opposition parties who engineered the petition drive for the direct presidential election earlier this year announced a nationwide protest for June 3 that its leaders said would be an important gauge of the public's dicontent over the referenda.

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