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Bulgaria: President Reportedly Fails To Settle Crisis

Sofia, 23 January 1997 (RFE/RL) -- On his first full day in office, Bulgaria's new president Petar Stoyanov reportedly failed today to resolve a political dispute that is paralyzing efforts to pull the country from its economic misery.

Stoyanov met separately with the leaders of the ruling Socialists -- the former communists -- and the opposition Union of Democratic Forces (UDF). Political leaders on both sides said afterwards the president is likely soon to give the Socialists, whose mismanagement is blamed for the economic crisis, a mandate to form a new government.

But the leaders disagree on how long, and in what conditions, the Socialists could govern. The Socialists have offered elections in December, a year ahead of schedule, but insist that they, as the largest party in parliament, should form an interim cabinet.

The UDF wants elections in March, and has threatened a general strike if the Socialists are allowed to govern further. The UDF says the Socialists lack the competence and backing they need in society. For more than two weeks street protestors have been demanding the Socialists' give up power.

In economic news, Bulgarian Finance Minister Dimitar Kostov told state-tv that Bulgaria faces hyper-inflation. Inflation was more than 300 percent last year but Kostov says it has continued to accelerate this month, reaching 30 percent in the last two weeks alone.