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Bulgaria: General Strike Called

Sofia, Jan. 29 (RFE/RL) - Bulgaria's trade-unions called a general strike today to pressure the ruling Socialist party (BSP), whom they blame for the country's economic problems, to give up their mandate and set new elections.

President Petar Stoyanov gave the Socialists a mandate to form a government yesterday after a compromise plan to defuse the country's political deadlock failed.

No immediate numbers were available on how many workers had laid down tools but many were expected to follow after opposition parties called on their supporters to join the strike.

State radio said protesters blocked international roads from Sofia to Bucharest, Romania, and Salonika, Greece. It said the road to Bucharest was blocked by burning tires near the town of Byala, some 300 kilometers northeast of Sofia, and 10-km long queues had formed on both sides.

One-hour strikes disrupted schools, factories and train services around the country, and in Plovdiv, the second largest city, public transport and taxis were off the streets for two hours. In Sofia however there was little evidence of public services being interrupted.

Meanwhile, the eight deputies of the Bulgarian Business Bloc (BBB) -- the Socialists' only parliamentary ally -- walked out of Parliament today. In a surprise declaration read at the opening of the session, the BBB condemned both the Socialists and the anti-Socialist opposition for failing to tackle the country's crisis.

Socialist Prime Minister designate Nikolai Dobrev has seven days to submit s new government. After a leadership meeting late yesterday the Socialists signalled a willingness to compromise and suggested a coalition government be formed until early elections in the autumn.