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Spain's Rajoy to face parliament over corruption scandal

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy speaks during an informal European Union foreign ministers gathering in Palma de Mallorca July 19, 2013
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy speaks during an informal European Union foreign ministers gathering in Palma de Mallorca July 19, 2013

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain's prime minister said on Monday he would appear before parliament to face questions over a corruption scandal, relenting to pressure from the opposition which had threatened a no-confidence vote if he refused.

"I have talked to the head of parliament and I have told him that I would ask to appear at the end of the month or at the beginning of August," Mariano Rajoy told a joint news conference with Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta.

Rajoy's People's Party (PP) had used its strong majority in parliament to block his appearance but pressure mounted last week when the opposition Socialists threatened a symbolic no-confidence vote.

Rajoy has denied any wrongdoing in a scandal involving allegations of illegal donations by construction magnates that were supposedly distributed as cash payments to him and other party leaders.

"I will appear before parliament in order to give full explanations because I believe that's where I should do it," Rajoy said.

The scandal comes at a bad time for Rajoy who had hoped tentative signs of economic recovery in Spain might restore a public image already damaged by tough spending cuts and months of social unrest amid a prolonged recession.

His party's former treasurer, Luis Barcenas, was arrested in June and charged with bribery, money laundering, tax fraud and other crimes. He says he paid 90,000 euros ($118,200) to Rajoy and party Secretary General Maria Dolores Cospedal in 2009 and 2010.

(Reporting by Andres Gonzalez; Writing by Julien Toyer; Editing by Paul Day and Robin Pomeroy)

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