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Poland's Tusk rejects calls to quit over bank scandal


Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk on Monday rejected calls for his government to quit over audio leaks suggesting his interior minister cut a deal with the head of the central bank to stay in power.

A secret recording that emerged on Sunday purportedly features the central bank chief telling Interior Minister Bartlomiej Sienkiewicz he would support the government's economic policy if the then finance minister resigned.

On Monday, Conservative opposition leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski threatened to table a motion of no confidence, saying "this government must go".

But Tusk told reporters he saw "nothing that would require me to step down" and accused those behind the recordings of trying to topple his administration at a time of escalating crisis in neighbouring Ukraine.

He said prosecutors did not believe that either the central bank chief Marek Belka or the minister was guilty of a crime.

Special services were looking into who was behind the illegal wiretaps and prosecutors would set up an investigation, Tusk added.

With 235 seats in the 460-member Polish parliament, Tusk's two-party governing coalition would likely survive a no-confidence vote.

But it is facing rising voter dissatisfaction in the run-up to a 2015 general election.

Last month his governing Civic Platform won the European Union parliament elections by less than a percentage point against Kaczynski's Law and Justice (PiS) party.

- 'Attempted coup' -

The latest scandal comes as Poland, a former Communist state that is now a member of NATO and the EU, grapples with security concerns sparked by the crisis in neighbouring Ukraine.

Tusk alleged his country was being "destabilised through illegally planted bugs," telling reporters that "for the first time since 1989, we are dealing with organised, illegal bugging, an attempted coup d'etat, an attempt to topple the government using illegal methods".

The premier stopped short of pointing the finger. But Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland's largest broadsheet daily, quoted an anonymous senior minister as saying Russian secret services were the likely culprits.

The claim comes with relations between Russia and the West at their worst since the Cold War, with Moscow on Monday turning off the gas supply to Kiev.

Ten of the EU's 28 members are heavily dependent on Russian gas and Tusk in April launched a diplomatic drive focused on creating an EU-wide energy union to mitigate against the risks of Russian gas cuts to Ukraine.

Tusk on Monday denied sending his minister to meet Belka, after Poland's Wprost magazine posted records on its website showing the central bank chief saying the "decommission" of then-finance minister Jacek Rostowski would be "essential" for the central bank to support government policy.

Rostowski was fired in November after six years as finance minister. But the bank denied any deal was struck, saying Belka's comments had been taken out of context.