Thursday, May 24, 2007

AP: Romanian Miners Strike Over Plant Sales

Romanian Miners Go on Strike to Protest Over Sell-Off of Coal Plants

Thousands of miners in southern Romania went on strike to demand the government cancel plans to sell off two coal power plants, fearing a new owner could close them down, officials said Thursday.

But miners' leaders pledged to end the protest later Thursday following talks with finance and economy minister Varujan Vosganian.

The strike began Wednesday, with miners refusing to leave the shafts. The protest stems from government plans to sell off the Turceni and Rovinari power plants, the largest coal-based power plants in Romania and the main buyers of coal from Romanian mines.

Protesters fear new owners of the plants would not be able to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to modernize them and bring them up to EU environmental standards, and would be forced to close them.

The government has criticized the strike as illegitimate and said the miners were being misinformed about the plans and their fears were misplaced.

Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu, who has been involved in a political battle with President Traian Basescu in recent months, suggested the strike could a political motive.

"It is regrettable that these people are manipulated by people who have other interests," he said.

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