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Bulgaria: Thousands Strike As Anti-Government Pressure Grows

Sofia, 13 January 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Thousands of workers in Bulgaria staged warning strikes today as pressure continued to mount on the government to call early legislative elections.

University students in the capital Sofia also boycotted classes. At least 2,000 of them marched through the city center, stopping at the American, Austrian and Italian embassies to appeal to those governments not to support the ruling Socialists in their attempt to form a new government.

The opposition, meanwhile, is planning to hold nationwide rallies later today, the eighth consecutive day of protests. The opposition says early polls are the best chance to bring in new leaders to save the economy. The leader of the Socialist Party, Georgi Parvanov, says talks with the opposition could come as early as today.

Bulgaria's incoming and outgoing presidents -- Zhelyu Zhelev and Petar Stoyanov -- also say elections are the only way out of the crisis. The speaker of parliament, Blagovest Sendov, also said yesterday the Socialists should agree to opposition demands.

Our Sofia correspondent reports that police-channel monitoring devices have been confiscated from an American tv crew covering demonstrations in Sofia. The head of the crew has been questioned at a local police station about the monitors.

Western reporters routinely monitor police broadcast frequencies. A Bulgarian Interior Ministry statement on the incident today does not specify if possession of such devices is a violation of Bulgaria's law.