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Lithuanian President Refuses to Step Down, Faces Possible Impeachment - 2003-12-02

Lithuania's parliament will consider opening impeachment proceedings against President Rolandas Paksas, later Tuesday, following the release of a report saying he is a threat to state because of alleged organized crime links to his office.

Parliament will debate whether to impeach President Paksas. The prime minister and other senior lawmakers have called on the 47-year-old leader to resign, voluntarily.

But Mr. Paksas insists the he will not take that step, saying he "does not feel guilty," despite the damaging parliament report released Monday.

The 10-page study says criminal groups exert influence over the president's office and pose a threat to Lithuania's national security. Some of the groups are reported to have links with Russian secret services.

The report also focuses on the president's relationship with his chief financial backer, Jurijus Borisovas, a Russian who is accused of illegal arms trading.

Impeachment proceedings are considered a virtual certainty. Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas, leader of the biggest party in parliament, has withdrawn his earlier support of the president. Mr. Brazauskas now says Mr. Paksas should step down, for the good of the country.

The scandal has engulfed the small Baltic nation, just months before it joins the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organization.