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Romania: Government Prepares For Miners' March On Capital

Bucharest, 19 January 1999 (RFE/RL) - Romanian President Emil Constantinescu held an urgent meeting with Prime Minister Radu Vasile and other top officials today to discuss a march by striking miners on the capital Bucharest. A statement released after the meeting said authorities would use all legal means to prevent miners from disturbing public order and damaging private and public property. Protests by miners in 1990 and 1991 ended in several deaths and the collapse of Romania's first post-communist government.

Reports say the head of domestic intelligence, the army chief and several government ministers also attended.

The meeting followed fresh reports of clashes between some 10,000 striking miners and police earlier today not far from the industrial city of Targu Jiu, some 240 kilometers northwest of Bucharest. Special police sprayed tear gas and threw smoke bombs to stop the miners, who nevertheless broke through makeshift barricades to reach Targu Jiu, where they were greeted by a cheering crowd.

Miners' leader Miron Cozma gave the government two hours to meet their demands or face a march on the capital, which the government has ruled illegal. The miners, who have been striking for 16 days, are demanding a 35 percent pay raise and an end to government plans to close two mines in the Jiu Valley.

For more in-depth coverage, see Romania: Miners' Protest Endangering Government