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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 June, 2005, 05:26 GMT 06:26 UK
Bolivian president offers to quit
Carlos Mesa in La Paz, Bolivia
Carlos Mesa has been under heavy pressure to resign
Bolivian President Carlos Mesa has offered to resign amid mass protests demanding the nationalisation of energy and a reform of the constitution.

"This is as far as I can go," he said in a televised address.

Indigenous and left-wing groups have held daily demonstrations in Bolivia's main city, La Paz, for weeks, and a blockade has led to shortages.

Mr Mesa has offered to quit before but was rejected by Congress. It is unclear whether his resignation will be agreed.

Congress could meet as early as Tuesday to discuss the move.

But the BBC's Elliott Gotkine in La Paz says even if parliament accepts the resignation, it may not be enough to end the current crisis as the man who would succeed him - Congress president Hormando Vaca Diez - is unpopular with protesters.

Demand for rights

Two weeks of road blocks have begun affecting the supply of fuel and food into La Paz.

The protests erupted last month after a law was passed imposing taxes on foreign companies that have invested in Bolivia's gas reserves, which are the second largest in South America.

The protesters said the law did not go far enough and called for the gas industry to be nationalised.

They also want constitutional reforms to give greater rights to the country's impoverished highlanders, most of whom are of indigenous descent.

The demonstrators oppose demands from Bolivia's resource-rich eastern provinces for greater autonomy and more foreign investment.

Televised resignation

Mr Mesa tried to calm the protests last week by signing a decree approving a special assembly that could change the constitution.

But the protesters vowed to continue their action until the constituent assembly is guaranteed by Congress and the country's natural gas resources are nationalised.

As clashes erupted between police and the protesters in La Paz on Monday, Mr Mesa left the presidential palace in the city under an armed escort.

He later appeared on national television to announce his resignation.

In an emotional address, he accused the protesters of intransigence and of taking advantage of his promise not to use force against them.

On Sunday the president met Church leaders and politicians to discuss the possibility of a snap election.

Mr Vaca Diez, who was at the meeting, said it was "an idea that is gaining momentum as a way out of the problem".

Roman Catholic Cardinal Julio Terrazas has called for an end to the protests, saying they have "choked the residents of La Paz and have hurt most of all the poor".

See the demonstrations which led to the resignation

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