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Bulgaria's controversial new security chief will resign

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Bulgarian Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski said Saturday he accepted the resignation of controversial media mogul Delyan Peevski as national security agency chief amid continuing street demonstrations over his appointment.

Peevski is a lawmaker from the Turkish MRF party whose backing is vital for Oresharski's two-week-old Socialist cabinet, which took office after protests brought down the previous Conservative government.

His appointment by parliament on Friday caused an uproar and Peevski said earlier Saturday that he was ready to step down if parliament, which has the final say, decided to withdraw him.

"I accept the declaration of Mr Delyan Peevski to resign as DANS chairman... as a sign of responsibility and maturity in the current situation," Oresharski said in a statement.

The prime minister said he was assured by parliamentarians that the appointment would be withdrawn, opening the way for him to propose a new candidate to replace Peevski after consultations.

MRF leader Lyutvi Mestan said parliament will vote on the withdrawal next Wednesday.

Parliament confirmed the 32-year-old Peevski -- whose family owns several newspapers, TV channels and websites -- on Friday to head the powerful national security agency, sparking a wave of angry reactions.

In a televised address, President Rosen Plevneliev -- who used to appoint the DANS chairman himself before changes to the law only last week -- demanded an immediate review of the hasty appointment that was done without debate.

He called into question the integrity and professional experience of Peevski, who is most controversial for his outsize role in Bulgaria's media landscape.

For the first time in Bulgaria's post-communist transition, the country's president -- whose role is otherwise largely ceremonial -- also said he had lost confidence in the government.

Just months after massive anti-poverty and anti-corruption street rallies ousted the previous conservative cabinet, some 10,000 people took to the streets again in Sofia late Friday to protest against the appointment.

Smaller rallies were held in at least a dozen other cities and 19 prominent Sofia think-tanks issued a special declaration, urging parliament to withdraw the controversial candidate.

Peevski's appointment to head the country's powerful top security agency also raised eyebrows in diplomatic circles, with foreign ambassadors in Sofia insisting the agency needed a more experienced chief.

The Socialists initially said they would not review their choice even if the scandal caused a rift in the party ranks.

The resignation's acceptance also failed to appease an angry public.

About 5,000 people gathered at a new round of protests Saturday evening in Sofia, turning their anger against the cabinet and demanding Oresharski himself step down for proposing Peevski in the first place.

A law graduate, Peevski worked as a criminal investigator for just a few months before rising to deputy emergency response minister in a Socialist-led government in 2005.

He was sacked two years later and prosecuted on extortion and corruption charges, but eventually acquitted, going on to become lawmaker in two succesive parliaments.

He is understood to be behind an empire of newspapers, newspaper distribution companies, television channels and news websites, officially owned by his mother, Irena Krasteva.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130615/bulgarias-controversial-new-security-chief-will-resign