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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bulgarian Socialist Retreats on Cabinet

SOFIA, Bulgaria -- New cracks appeared in Bulgaria's divided ruling Socialist party Friday after Interior Minister Nikolai Dobrev offered to give up trying to form a Socialist-led cabinet.

Dobrev said a coalition government could be formed by President Petar Stoyanov, and he planned to meet the president later Friday to ask him to appoint one.

But Dobrev later postponed the meeting, showing signs of having come under pressure from hard-liners within the party leadership. He said he had to give Socialist leader Georgi Parvanov time for more talks with other political parties.

The socialists, elected for a four-year term in December 1994, have resisted nearly four weeks of protests aimed at forcing immediate new elections amid a mounting economic crisis.

Parvanov said after meeting party leaders that preparations for a new cabinet were going according to plan. But opposition leader Ivan Kostov said Dobrev's apparent climb down showed he was having trouble finding anyone to join him.

"I suspect that he is not ready with the structure and composition of the cabinet," Kostov told reporters. Under the constitution, Dobrev has until Tuesday to form a cabinet.

"I called the president and explained that the chairman of the parliamentary group of the democratic left has invited the political forces represented in parliament for talks on the structure, members, and term of the cabinet," Dobrev said.

"The consultations are expected to end tomorrow evening."

After nearly four weeks of mass protests against the Socialists' plans to form a new cabinet, Dobrev said earlier the crisis had gotten beyond party politics, and he would be willing to give up his mandate for the sake of consensus.

"I think the country now needs a constitutional government on a very wide political base," he said.

"I don't mind if it is formed under the leadership of the president as I highly respect the president's efforts to find a way out of the crisis," he said.

Under the constitution, Stoyanov is obliged to give the mandate first to the Socialists, as the largest party in parliament, but the opposition is determined to stop them forming a new cabinet.

Returning Friday from talks with European Union and NATO leaders in Brussels, Stoyanov renewed his call for Dobrev to return the mandate to help resolve the crisis.

Formally, the Socialists still have almost two years of their term to run, but students, opposition parties and workers have joined forces during nearly a month of protests to demand an immediate general election.

International Monetary Fund managing director Michel Camdessus wrote to Stoyanov saying the IMF was ready to help as soon as a valid government was in place.

Protesters kept up anti-government strikes and blockades Friday. Riot police arrived at Doupnitsa, south of Sofia, to ask protesters to clear their three-day-old blockade of the main road to the Greek border.