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Friday, January 22, 1999 Published at 13:05 GMT

World: Europe

Romanian miner deal struck

The miners have stormed two sets of police barricades so far

A deal has been reached betwen the Romanian Government and striking miners, according to the Prime Minister Radu Vasile.

Mr Vasile gave the news as he emerged from talks with miners' leader, Miron Cozma.

Valerie Jones: "The miners pressed their claims for pay increases" (BBC Six O'Clock News)
The two men are going to meet thousands of miners who are now occupying the centre of the nearby town of Rimnicu Vilcea, to reveal to them the terms of the settlement.

Earlier, President Emil Constantinescu postponed imposing a state of emergency to allow more time for talks with the miners who were marching on the capital, Bucharest.

Mr Constantinescu set an original deadline of 1200GMT for the protesters to turn back

[ image:  ]
The miners are demanding higher wages and an end to pit closures. They are already paid twice as much as other Romanians.

Prime Minister Radu Vasile opened talks with miners' leader Miron Cozma in a monastery near Rimnicu Vilcea, 170km northwest of Bucharest.

Thousands of police with armoured reinforcements have been stationed nearby, following violent clashes and the storming of police barricades on Wednesday and Thursday.

[ image:  ]
The miners' march reached the town on Thursday, the fifth day of their journey to the capital.

A state of emergency could still be declared if talks do not lead to a solution, allowing the government to bring troops on to the streets to quell unrest.

Concessions on talks

By meeting the miners, Prime Minister Radu Vasile has satisfied one of their demands - that he should conduct negotiations with them in person.

Romanian MP Zsolt Szilagyi: "The miners' movement is politically manipulated"
He leads a delegation which includes the country's finance minister, and a bishop who comes from the miners' region in the hills of Western Romania.

After striking for three weeks, some coal miners are calling for the government to resign, adding to their demands of higher wages and the reversal of pit closures.

[ image: Return to revolution: Warnings over continued march]
Return to revolution: Warnings over continued march
The mood among the miners on Friday morning was one of impatience, and determination to press ahead, despite President Emil Constantinescu's threats.

The rest of the country is holding its breath.

Left-wing opposition parties have openly supported the miners, blaming the economic policies of the government.

But in Bucharest, a march of several thousand people, including writers, poets and politicians, marched in favour of reforms in defence of the government.

In 1990 and 1991, miners stormed the capital and brought down the government.

Last week, a local court banned a strike by 10,000 miners in the central Jiu Valley coal region, but they refused to return to work.

Public order crisis

The miners - armed with rocks, Molatov cocktails, clubs and shovels - have fought their way past two police blockades, reinforced by piles of concrete slabs.

Riot police using tear gas repulsed the first attempt to breach their second blockade, but the miners, dividing into almost military formations, managed to work their way around the barricade, and rained rocks on the security forces from the surrounding hills. More than 100 police were injured.

The continued march has already led to the sacking of Interior Minister Gavril Dejeu.

His replacement, Constantin Dudu Ionescu, in turn fired both the head of the police force responsible for maintaining public order and the general who led security forces in the two failed attempts to contain the miners.

"We are in exceptional circumstances in which the existence of the state itself is in question," Mr Ionescu said.

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