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Bulgaria: Socialists Discuss Government As Strikes, Protests Widen

Sofia, 3 February 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Bulgaria's Socialists continued talks today on formation of a new Socialist cabinet despite massive anti-Communist protests backing demands for early elections.

State radio said the Socialist leadership had approved the cabinet list, but no names were mentioned.

Both President Petar Stoyanov and the opposition yesterday rejected a proposal by the Socialists to hold talks on forming a broad-based coalition government.

In the capital Sofia and in the country's second largest city, Plovdiv, in central Bulgaria, road traffic was paralyzed as public transport workers stayed off their jobs and demonstrators set up road blocks.

Several border crossings on the frontier with neighboring Macedonia were closed today as demonstrators continued to block the motorway linking Sofia and the Greek capital of Athens.

Demonstrators set up road barricades blocking all entry roads to Sofia while students erected road barricades at city intersections. Earlier today 15 students were injured when angry motorists broke through human chains formed to blockade roads in Sofia.

Supplies of bread and other basic food stocks are now running low in the capital and long lines of shoppers formed outside the few bakeries that were open.

National police chief Hristo Marinsky appealed to politicians and to President Petar Stoyanov to find a way of avoiding violence. The national currency, the lev, continued its freefall. It was trading at 2,500 to the dollar this afternoon, compared to 2,000 on Friday and 450 to the dollar at the start of the year.