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Romania Says Hungary Incites Ethnic Tensions

March 21, 1990

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) _ The provisional government accused Hungary on Wednesday of inciting tensions between Romanians and ethnic Hungarians that led to bloody street battles this week in Transylvania.

In a strongly worded statement released to news media, it charged Hungarian officialdom with ″propagandistic actions ... that present Transylvania as a Hungarian component.″

Clashes between the Romanian majority and Hungarian minority left several people injured Wednesday in the Transylvanian town of Tirgu Mures, scene of Tuesday night’s bloodletting that killed at least six people and injured about 300.

Tanks cordoned off all highways into the city of 165,000 northwest of Bucharest and patrolled downtown, where the pitched battles Tuesday featured men swinging scythes surging into crowds to beat other men.

Tirgu Mures was reported quiet Wednesday night.

However, Romanians and Hungarians were entering the city on foot late Wednesday afternoon armed with clubs and iron bars, witnesses said. The army had orders to arrest anyone carrying a weapon on the streets.

The government accused interim Hungarian President Matyas Szueroes of issuing a March 18 call through the press to ethnic Hungarians in Romania, urging them ″to intensify their activity, and to organize themselves according to the idea that Transylvania would be ’native Hungarian land.‴

But the provisional leadership that has run Romania since the December revolution that overthrew Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu also put some of the blame for the violence on right-wing elements inciting ethnic Romanians.

Interim Vice President Cazimir Ionescu blamed the clashes on a resurgence of the fascist Iron Guard.

A special commission of inquiry flown to Tirgu Mures on Wednesday agreed to meet Thursday with representatives of both the Romanian and Hungarian communities.

At United Nations headquarters in New York, a Hungarian diplomat said Wednesday that Hungary has appealed for U.N. help to protect the rights of Hungarians in Romania and is pressing for Security Council action to halt ethnic violence in Transylvania. He demanded anonymity.

In a letter to Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar, Hungarian Foreign Minister Gyula Horn asked the international community and the United Nations ″to take effective measures ... to protect the individual and collective rights of the largest minority in Europe.″

Horn said ″legal Romanian organizations″ have fueled ethnic tensions and prompted violence against Hungarian minorities in Transylvanian cities.

The State Department in Washington appealed to Romanians to reject extremist groups and end the ethnic violence.

Spokesman Richard Boucher said, ″Romanian citizens of all ethnic backgrounds should remember their recent monumental sacrifices in ousting the brutal Ceaucescu dictatorship in the hope of establishing a democracy based on respect for human rights and tolerance of political and cultural diversity.″ The Romanian statement Wednesday accused Hungary of using the cover of cultural aid to send school books and posters that represent Transylvania as a part of Hungary.

″The Romanian government demands an immediate halt to incitements and opposes the way Hungarian officialdom manipulates the news and presents the situation in Romania,″ it said.

Tirgu Mures is considered a cradle of ethnic Hungarian culture in Transylvania, which was ruled by Hungarians for centuries before being granted to Romania under a 1920 treaty.

Since the December uprising, the Hungarian minority has been demanding greater cultural and social autonomy, including more Hungarian-language schools and other social institutions.

Ceausescu suppressed all ethnic minorities in his drive for social, cultural and political uniformity. The 2.2 million ethnic Hungarians - nearly all of them living in mountainous Transylvania - make up almost 10 percent of Romania’s 23 million population.

Ethnic Romanians complain that concessions granted to the Hungarians by the new government discriminate against them by minimizing the use of the Romanian language in cities and towns where Hungarians predominate.

Ionescu told The Associated Press on Wednesday, in singling out the Iron Guard as a provocateur, ″They scared the Romanians with the idea that the Hungarians want to take over Transylvania, and they are tellling the Hungarians that some requests they have made (to the government) will not be granted.″

Since the revolution, anti-minority letters and posters have been circulating in Romania signed by the Iron Guard, an anti-Semitic, xenophobic organization that flourished here in the late 1930s and early 1940s. The group called for ethnic purity and expulsion of all non-Romanians, especially Jews.

At a Wednesday night news conference, interim Prime Minister Petre Roman said three Romanian-born Canadian ctizens were expelled Wednesday for Iron Guard activities. He did not identify them, but said they were found in possession of Iron Guard promotional literature.

The state Rompres news agency identified the three as Nicolae Doru Popescu, 47, Gheorghe Balasu, 66, and Mihaela Moisin, 49, but gave no hometowns in Canada.

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