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Bulgaria: Demonstrators Storm Parliament; Emergency Session Called

Sofia, 10 January 1997 (RFE/RL) - Thousands of opposition demonstrators threw stones and smashed windows at the Parliament building in Sofia today as they demanded early elections and an end to Socialist rule in Bulgaria. The state-run BTA news agency reports a group of demonstrators managed to break through the police cordon and enter the building. The demonstrators set fire to one room and police fired tear gas to try to evict them. An emergency session is underway in Parliament to discuss the situation on the streets.

Correspondents say the session is also expected to discuss an opposition declaration which the ruling Socialist Party refused to vote on earlier today, causing a walkout by opposition members. The opposition's so-called "declaration for national salvation" calls for early elections and negotiations on a multi-party economic revival program.

After the emergency session was announced, opposition leaders appealed to the crowd to stay calm and keep out of parliament. Ivan Kostov, leader of the opposition Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) welcomed the announcement, declaring:"We won."

Clashes earlier today around the Parliament between demonstrators and police reportedly left at least five people injured, including three policemen.

Thousands of protesters outside parliament burned red flags and called for early elections. One placard read "The prime minister is a policeman, the country is a concentration camp." A human chain, mostly of students, surrounded parliament, which was heavily guarded by riot police. Meanwhile, hundreds of taxis cruised central Sofia sounding their horns to show support.

During the clashes, Interior Minister Nikolay Dobrev, as well as a number of other deputies, were pelted with snowballs despite police efforts to shield them. Earlier this week the ruling Socialist party nominated Dobrev to take over the premiership from Zhan Videnov, who resigned after been widely blamed for the country's ongoing sconomic crisis.