Romanian PM sacks farm minister after EU warning

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BUCHAREST, Oct 11 (Reuters) Romania's centrist government faced calls from the opposition to resign after the prime minister today sacked his farm minister who is embroiled in a corruption scandal.

The dismissal of Decebal Traian Remes came a day after the European Commission gave the new member state one month to overhaul its agricultural payments system or face cuts in European Union subsidies.

Prime Minister Calin Tariceanu said corruption allegations made it difficult to continue reforms needed to secure EU aid.

''The prime minister took the decision due to the recent scandal in the media centred on the farm minister, believing that he can no longer do his job efficiently,'' the government said in a statement.

Remes denies any wrongdoing.

The Commission's ultimatum on farm aid and the media scandal surrounding Remes are the latest blows to Tariceanu's embattled government, which narrowly survived a parliamentary no-confidence vote last week.

In addition to Remes, prosecutors have requested authorisation this year to investigate several other current and former government ministers, including Justice Minister Tudor Chiuariu.

Major opposition groupings said Tariceanu should resign, but analysts say there is little chance of the prime minister losing office unless he steps down.

''To regain credibility ... and prove to the EU that anti-corruption is not just a promise thrown into the wind, this government must leave,'' said Emil Boc, head of the opposition Democrat party linked to President Traian Basescu.

Prosecutors, who also want to investigate former farm minister Ioan Muresan, said in a statement Muresan passed 15,000 euros (21,320 dollar) and goods worth 1,500 lei (640 dollar) from a local businessman to an official ''so that the businessman's firm is favoured at public tenders.'' REUTERS AE BST1912

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