VILNIUS - The National Farmers' Union has proposed Ambassador to Belarus Petras Vaitiekunas for the vacant post of foreign minister. After the withdrawal of the Social Liberals, the three remaining ruling parties agreed that the post of foreign minister should go to the National Farmers' Union and the Social Security and Labor Ministry should be given to the Labor Party.
A physicist by education, Vaitiekunas, 53, is a signatory of the Lithuanian Independence Act of March 11, 1990. During the last decade, he worked as presidential adviser for foreign policy and was later appointed as ambassador to Latvia. As several presidential advisers resigned amid the Rolandas Paksas presidential scandal of 2004, Vaitiekunas was delegated from the Foreign Ministry to assist the president, who was later removed from the post by parliamentary impeachment.
Vaitiekunas has, for the past two years, been heading the Lithuanian Embassy to Belarus, which has served as NATO's contact point to Belarus. The ambassador faced the difficult task of implementing the Lithuanian neighborhood policy, which entails strengthening of Belarusian democracy amid the strong authoritarian regime of President Alexander Lukashenko.
The position of foreign minister has been vacant since the Social Liberals left the ruling coalition last month and withdrew its members - Antanas Valionis and Vilija Blinkeviciute - from posts of foreign and social security and labor ministers.
The two ministers have tendered resignations to Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas, with dates of their dismissal yet to be finalized.
President Valdas Adamkus has requested that Valionis stay in his post until completion of an international conference in Vilnius that should be attended by eight presidents and the U.S. vice president.
Under the Constitution, ministers are appointed and dismissed by the president upon proposal from the prime minister.