Leader of the Croatian People's Party (HNS) and former economy minister Ivan Vrdoljak on Wednesday refuted accusations by former prime minister Ivo Sanader, a witness in the INA-MOL arbitration process, who claimed that the arbitration had been launched to satisfy (Vrdoljak's) private interests.

"Who is Sanader to talk about integrity. This isn't the first time and I think it won't be the last to try and discredit me just because, while defending national interests, I trod on someone's (private interest) toes, who under the guise of patriotism sold our national wealth. Our arbitration was launched to stop us having to pay three billion kuna to MOL, based on a detrimental agreement that Sanader and the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ)-led government signed," Vrdoljak told reporters in parliament.

Vrdoljak reacted to a statement by Sanader on Tuesday night for the Nova TV that Vrdoljak "had some other account and some other interests of his own," related to INA.

Sanader refuted charges of receiving a bribe in exchange for enabling MOL to obtain management rights in INA, adding that he had confirmed this to the Arbitration tribunal in London, resenting the fact that the former (Social Democratic Party-led) government had at Vrdoljak's initiative "entered into an exceptionally risky business for Croatia."

In an attempt to counter Sanader's statement, Vrdoljak today underscored that arbitration proceedings launched by the former government had not been based on trials in Croatia such as the one against Sanader for the INA-MOL case but on evidence that the agreements had been concluded illegally and were damaging for Croatia.

"The arbitration proceedings are not the problem in INA, but the situation in that company which because MOL has not fulfilled its obligations, have brought the company to a state in which people are being fired, wages are being decreased and the production of oil and gas is declining. That way MOL will achieve its goal of transforming INA into its retail network in Croatia," he said.

That is why it is the government's duty to actively participate in INA and not to impact public opinion with its statements, he said, "because if they (the current government) do not do something, that could be interpreted as a crime."

 "Let them be patriots, let them defend national interests when it comes to INA," Vrdoljak said.

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