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Romania: Strike Leaders Delay Decision On Bucharest Protests

Petrosani, Romania; 15 January 1999 (RFE/RL) -- Leaders of Romania's striking coal miners have postponed until Monday a decision on whether to take their protest to Bucharest.

Union leaders met behind closed doors throughout the night in the coal mining town of Petrosani. RFE/RL's correspondent in Petrosani says strike leaders have decided to await the outcome of talks in Bucharest between their representatives and Industry Minister Radu Berceanu.

The government has declared the strike illegal. Authorities want to prevent a repeat of violent protests that left at least nine people dead in Bucharest in 1990 and 1991. The government has banned the miners from traveling on state railways. The interior ministry also has constructed road blockades to prevent more than 10,000 miners from traveling to the capital on privately chartered buses.

The miners are demanding pay raises and greater job security, as the government attempts to close down loss-making state mines.

Today's talks in Bucharest do not include strike leader Miron Cozma, who led the earlier violent protests. Cozma, a member of the nationalist Romania Mare party, had originally proposed taking the strike to Bucharest.