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Bulgaria: Socialist Leader Apologizes For Crisis

Sofia, 21 January 1997 (RFE/RL) - The leader of Bulgaria's ruling Socialists has apologized on behalf of his party for disappointing people's expectations during two years of government in which Bulgaria's economy collapsed.

But in an interview with the daily "Trud" today Georgi Parvanov offered what he called constructive discussion with the opposition and those protesting in the streets to resolve the crisis.

Premier Zhan Videnov resigned last month from the government and party leadership amid accusations he had failed to implement economic reforms and take measures to halt inflation.

The opposition, backed by massive street protests, is insisting on immediate elections. But the Socialists -- the former communists -- want to wait until later this year and form a new government in the meantime.

In the "Trud" interview Parvanov concedes that immediate elections would be better for the party because it would no longer bear responsibility for solving the crisis. But he says the country would suffer because urgently needed measures would be further delayed.

The opposition wants parliament to disband immediately, a caretaker appointed with extra-constitutional powers to negotiate with international lenders and new parliamentary elections two months from now.

Meanwhile, a Bulgarian military prosecutor says that contrary to earlier reports, the country's former Communist leader Todor Zhivkov remains under house arrest on charges for his forced assimilation policy against ethnic Turks in the 1980s.

A Sofia civil prosecutor ordered Zhivkov freed yesterday in an embezzlement case but military prosecutor Valery Parvanov said today Zhivkov remains under "house arrest.�

Zhivkov was charged in 1992 with discrimination for having forced ethnic Turks, about ten percent of the country's population, to change their Islamic names for Bulgarian ones in 1984 and 1985. He also was accused with outlawing their religious and cultural practices, including circumcision, shroud burials, religious instruction and speaking Turkish in public.

Parvanov, conceding that the case has not been brought to trial, declined to comment on why Zhivkov, who is 85, is still being held.

Sofia prosecutor Mikhail Doichev said yesterday he had lifted the house arrest order linked to the embezzlement conviction following a decision from the chief prosecutor's office. Doichev said Zhivkov is an "old man," who "in view of his health he should be free to move round town."

Zhivkov was convicted in 1992 of embezzling the equivalent of about $24 million of public funds spent on luxury apartments and Western cars for his family and aides.