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BULGARIANS SCRAMBLE TO FIND NEW LEADER

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Political leaders scrambled Saturday to find a replacement for former President Peter Mladenov amid predictions the next head of state would come from outside the ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party.

The resignation late Friday was unprecedented in Bulgaria's modern history and sparked confusion in a country still struggling to make the transition from monolithic communist state to multiparty democracy.Mladenov, a liberal communist who helped orchestrate the Nov. 10 overthrow of hard-line leader Todor Zhivkov, resigned amid controversy over an inflammatory remark he made at an anti-government protest Dec. 14.

Jeered by demonstrators who besieged the National Assembly building, Mladenov had muttered the words, "Let the tanks come."

The remark was captured on videotape and came back to haunt him in the final days of last month's campaign for parliamentary elections.

Within hours of the resignation, leaders of the major political parties had already begun negotiations to choose Mladenov's successor.

No clear favorite had emerged Saturday, but most of the names being circulated as potential candidates were not members of the ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party, or former communist party.

The BSP won a majority of seats in the Grand National Assembly in multiparty elections June 10 and 17, but lacks the two-thirds majority needed to ram its own nomineee through the Parliament, making it likely a consensus candidate will be chosen.

Douma, the Socialist party newspaper, mentioned three possible successors to Mladenov: Krustyu Petkov, a professor and leader of the Independent Trade Unions, and independents Blagovest Sendov and Lyuben Koulishev, who played a key roles in round-table talks between the communist party and democratic opposition this spring.

Other names cited were Zhivko Stalev and Dimiter Popov, who head the non-partisan Central Electoral Commission, Peter Dertliev, leader of the Bulgarian Social Democratic Party and Viktor Valkov, who heads the Bulgarian Agrarian Party.