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Bulgarian Police End Blockade Of Parliament

Antigovernment protesters have rallied in Sofia for the past 40 days.

Bulgarian riot police have dispersed hundreds of protesters who blockaded more than 100 lawmakers, ministers, and journalists inside parliament in Sofia for more than eight hours, demanding the resignation of the government.

Police evacuated the lawmakers early on July 24, and crews began dismantling makeshift barricades that protesters had erected to cut off access to the parliament building.

Interior Minister Tsvetlin Yovchev praised the police for their handling of the situation.

"The police did a perfect job," Yovchev said. "We have witnessed serious attempts at violence. Both the lawmakers and policemen were attacked. Despite that, the policemen kept their presence of mind and I think we all saw that they managed to get the situation under control."

Earlier, protesters had succeeded in blocking an attempt by police to evacuate lawmakers by bus. The protesters shouted at the lawmakers.

Demonstrators chanted "Mafia!" "Resign!" and "Murderers!" and threw stones at a bus police brought to escort the lawmakers out of the building.

At least eight protesters and two police were reported injured in clashes.

July 23 was the 40th straight evening of antigovernment protests in the European Union’s poorest member state.

The wave of protests initially erupted because of the appointment of 32-year-old media magnate Delyan Peevski to run the country's powerful national security agency. Peevski's inexperience with security issues, private industry background, and the apparent suddenness of the appointment provoked outrage.

Antigovernment demonstrations continued even after the appointment was withdrawn. Protesters say the Socialist-backed government is compromised and are demanding sweeping reforms to root out corruption and fight poverty.

European Union Justice Commissioner Vivianne Reding was in Sofia on July 23 for a two-hour public debate and said on her Twitter account: "My sympathy is with the Bulgarian citizens who are protesting against corruption."

The government took over after early elections in May. Those elections followed the resignation of the previous cabinet amid antiausterity protests.

The current government has only 120 seats in the 240-seat parliament and must rely on support from a nationalist party.

Based on reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters