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Czech prime minister steps down

PRAGUE — Prime Minister Petr Necas submitted his resignation Monday, prompting the Czech Civic Democrats and their coalition partners to work to quickly replace him to keep the conservative government in power through 2014 and fend off Socialist attempts to force early elections.

Leaders of the ruling parties are trying to narrow the field of candidates for prime minister after a scandal over spying and bribery charges forced Necas to quit. He submitted his resignation to President Milos Zeman at Prague Castle, rather than face an opposition-led no-confidence vote Tuesday.

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Necas leaves a $217 billion economy mired in the longest recession since current records started in 1996.

He focused on austerity, which hurt household consumption while businesses curbed spending amid the euro-area debt crisis. The country has endured seven governments and six prime ministers since Zeman finished his four-year term as prime minister in 2002.

‘‘For us, the priority is to preserve this coalition project,’’ Martin Kuba, the Civic Democrats’ first deputy chairman and industry minister, said at the party’s headquarters in Prague.

A government formed from current coalition parties ‘‘is important to allow the continuation of responsible budget policy.’’

Zeman said he will meet the leaders of political parties starting Friday to hash out the options.

Necas will remain as caretaker prime minister until Zeman names his successor.

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