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Bulgarian Communists to Hold Talks With Opposition

December 27, 1989

SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) _ The ruling Communists and an opposition coalition agreed Wednesday to hold wide-ranging talks on Bulgaria’s future government. Some workers staged brief strikes as a warning to the Communists.

Following the agreement, an independent trade union called off a general strike scheduled for Thursday. The union demands the resignation of the government, the Parliament and the Communist Party’s Central Committee.

In other developments Wednesday, the government fired Interior Minister Georgi Tanev following criticism of police violence against demonstrators in October. The official BTA news agency gave no reason for his ouster.

The announcements are the latest in a series of changes since Bulgaria’s longtime hard-line Communist leader, Todor Zhivkov, was ousted Nov. 10.

Since then, amid a wave of democratic reform that has swept Eastern Europe, leaders have scrapped a law forbidding dissent, proposed free elections in May and granted amnesty to political prisoners.

The ruling party reached agreement with the opposition coalition, the Union of Democratic Forces, ″toward holding consultations″ beginning Tuesday or Wednesday, said Ivan Angelov, a spokesman for the Central Committee.

The talks were characterized as being similar to those in Czechoslovakia that led to a government dominated by non-Communists.

For the first time in Bulgaria, strikes were held throughout the country Wednesday, but only small groups of workers took part. The two-hour strikes were intended as a warning to Communist leaders.

The independent union Support withdrew its Thursday strike call following the agreement, said chairman Konstantin Trenchev.

Support’s job action was not backed by most of the independent organizations in the Union of Democratic Forces, which said workers should strike only after all other forms of a dialogue are exhausted.

Plamen Darakchiev, a secretary of Support, said the trade union ″will not relinquish its demands but make them in a categoric way″ at the talks with the Communists.

BTA said Tanev was replaced as Interior Minister by Gen. Atanas Semerdzhiev, the army’s chief of staff. BTA said the deputy foreign minister, Lyuben Gotsev, would move to the No. 2 position at the Interior Ministry, which is responsible for the East bloc country’s police and internal security.

Tanev, 48, was blamed for the Oct. 26 crackdown on demonstrators of the then-banned Eco-Glasnost environmental group. The government said at least 22 people protesting in Sofia against a government hydroelectric project were beaten and kicked by police, and Western diplomats said from 30 to 40 were detained.

The police action embarrassed the Bulgarian leadership because it drew sharp criticism from delegates to a 35-nation ecological forum in Sofia taking place at the time. The group was later legalized.

At the last session of the Parliament on Dec. 14, Tanev read a long statement on the incident, rejecting all responsibility. He said he had only learned of the police action afterward.

Under Tanev, a police squad that cracked down on human rights activists and political opponents was in operation. Under new Communist leader Petar Mladenov, it was disbanded Nov. 25.

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