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Page last updated at 18:23 GMT, Tuesday, 7 April 2009 19:23 UK

Moldova students raid parliament

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Tear gas and jets of water were blasted at protesters by security forces

Demonstrators in Moldova have attacked the country's parliament in protest at the victory of the governing Communist Party in Sunday's general election.

Witnesses say crowds poured into the building, smashing windows and setting light to furniture.

Police said a woman died from carbon monoxide poisoning after inhaling fumes in a blaze, state television reported.

President Vladimir Voronin urged an end to "destabilisation", but opposition leaders have backed the protests.

They say the election result was fraudulent.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana has urged all sides in the former Soviet state to refrain from violence, and Russia also voiced its concern.

'Bloodshed' claim

Communist Party leader Mr Voronin, who will step down as president this month after two terms in office, told ministers there was "no evidence of any irregularities during the election".

"Appealing against the election's outcome is merely a pretext," he said during a televised cabinet meeting.

Vladimir Voronin votes (5 April 2009)
President Voronin said there was no evidence of electoral irregularities

Mr Voronin said the authorities would "shed light on these events" and find out the identities of the organisers.

"But now we must think how we should act and what we should do because their key goal can be clearly seen," he said.

"It is very obvious. They need bloodshed from the authorities."

The president and Prime Minister Zinaida Greceanii held talks with the leaders of the three main opposition parties - the Liberal Party, the Liberal Democratic Party and Our Moldova Alliance.

The three parties later denied accusations from Mr Voronin's supporters that were attempting a coup d'etat and reiterated that they believed the election result was fraudulent.

"We support the youths in their absolutely normal aspiration to counteract this rude election fraud," said Vlad Filat, leader of the Liberal Democrats.

"We were those who urged them not to use violence."

The Mayor of Chisinau, Dorin Chirtoaca, who is deputy head of the opposition Liberal Party, said the protests were justified "because people did not vote for the Communists in such large numbers".

Vote 'was fair'

Earlier on Tuesday, tear gas and jets of water were blasted at protesters by security forces defending the parliament building in the capital, Chisinau. The presidential office was also attacked.

A fire outside the Moldovan parliament (7 April 2009)

Medical officials said more than 30 people - including both protesters and police - were injured.

Later, Moldovan state TV said one woman had "choked to death from carbon monoxide poisoning in the parliament".

Although election observers concluded last weekend's vote was fair, opposition parties and many students are not convinced.

The Communist Party won 50% of votes in the election. They were followed by the Liberal Party with almost 13% of the votes, the Liberal Democratic Party with 12%, and Our Moldova Alliance on almost 10%.

It is still not clear whether the Communists will win the 61 seats in the 101-seat parliament that they need to elect Mr Voronin's successor unopposed.

Opposition reject coalition

Mr Solana said he was "very concerned" over the situation.

"I call on all sides to refrain from violence and provocation. Violence against government buildings is unacceptable," he said in a statement.

"Equally important is the respect for the inalienable right of assembly of peaceful demonstrators."

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin said he was concerned about the protests, which he described as "provoked".

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President Voronin is barred by the constitution from running for a third term, although he has indicated he wants to remain involved in affairs of state.

If no president is chosen before 8 June, another parliamentary election must be held.

The pro-Western centre-right opposition parties have said they will not join a coalition with the Communists, who favour strong links with both Russia and the European Union.

Mr Voronin's successor will lead the poorest country in Europe, where the average wage is just under $250 (£168) a month, and will inherit an unresolved conflict over the breakaway region of Trans-Dniester.

Correspondents say the dispute is reminiscent of the situation in South Ossetia before last summer's conflict between Georgia and Russia.

The region has run its own affairs, with Moscow's support, since the end of hostilities in a brief war in 1992. Mr Voronin resumed direct talks with Trans-Dniester last year.



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