Croatian PM quits

ZAGREB: Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader resigned on Wednesday and said he was withdrawing from politics.

“I have decided to withdraw from active politics and will not run as a candidate for Croatian president in elections due this year,” Sanader told a hastily arranged media conference.“Thank God I am not ill... and I admit that I did not accept offers for engagement in European Union institutions,” he said.

He said his party was to propose Deputy Prime Minister Jadranka

Kosor as his immediate successor to President Stipe Mesic.

The move comes after the European Union stopped accession talks last week with Zagreb due to a border row with neighbouring Slovenia, which has blocked

the EU process since December.

Sanader, 56, became prime minister in 2003 when his Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) returned to power. Since taking over the HDZ helm in 2000, Sanader has steered the party away from the nationalist bent it had under Croatia’s late autocratic president Franjo Tudjman and put it among Europe’s mainstream conservatives.

Under Sanader, Croatia started membership talks with the European Union 10 years after the end of its war of independence from the former Yugoslavia.

The country, which joined the NATO military alliance earlier this year, is hoping to become the European bloc’s 28th member by 2011.