Czech leaders meet president on political crisis

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Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka says he has changed his mind about resigning with his government and instead wants to solve a political crisis by firing his finance minister.

With Sobotka saying that he could no longer work with Babis, the shock decision brought down the Czech government.

But he changed his mind after Zeman indicated he would treat the resignation as Sobotka's own, not the departure of the entire cabinet. "The finance minister, burdened by extensive scandals, would remain in the government", Sobotka told reporters.

"It would suffice if Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Andrej Babis gave priority to the interest and stability of the Czech Republic over his desire to keep the post of finance minister". But he held back, in part due to the possibility that Zeman, whose relations with Sobotka are poor, might consider Sobotka's resignation his personal move and not the cabinet's, which would have left Babis in place. The president formally fires government ministers at the request of the prime minister, according to the Constitution.

The governing coalition is made up of the Christian Democrats, Sobotka's Czech Social Democratic Party (CSSD) and Babis' ANO 2011 centrist party.

Accusing the president of making a "joke" of the constitution, Sobotka told reporters: "In such a situation my resignation does not make any sense".

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Sobotka said the finance minister had failed to clear suspicions over financial irregularities linked to his businesses.

Zeman's spokesman said the president would take time to make a decision on the proposed dismissal of Babis.

"Ladies and gentlemen, I'm really not sure what to speak about", Sobotka said, adding he had come to talk to the president.

Sobotka said the new government would lead the country until the regular October 20-21 general election and it should be formed based on the incumbent coalition.

If Zeman refuses to dismiss Babis the case may wind up at the constitutional court.

The president also told Sobotka he was not ready to meet him over the issue again.