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OAS chief resigns amid bribery allegations

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The head of the Organization of American States resigned Friday, just two weeks into his tenure, after allegations that he participated in a bribery scandal involving a French telephone company.

Secretary-General Miguel Angel Rodriguez, from Costa Rica, disclosed his resignation in a letter read to a special session of the OAS permanent council. The resignation takes effect on Oct. 15.

The first allegations of wrongdoing against Rodriguez surfaced Sept. 30 and prompted a demand for his resignation by President Abel Pacheco of Costa Rica.

In his letter, Rodriguez said he did not want to subject the OAS to a ``cruel and long persecution of its secretary-general,'' not only in judicial proceedings but also in the media.

``With humility, pain and anguish, I ask you and your countries for forgiveness for making you endure this difficult period,'' Rodriguez said in his letter. It was read to the 34-member council by Costa Rica's ambassador to the OAS, Luis Guardia.

The former Costa Rican president will be succeeded by the second-ranking official in the OAS, American Luigi Einaudi, a former State Department official.

Rodriguez decided to quit after Costa Rica's attorney general said Rodriguez does not have immunity from prosecution on allegations that he accepted $140,000 in a deal involving the French telephone company Alcatel.

Rodriguez was sworn in Sept. 23 to a five-year term as chief of the world's oldest regional organization. Eleven hemisphere heads of state and government attended the ceremony at OAS headquarters in Washington.
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