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Romania Picks New Defense Minister Sought By Army

February 17, 1990

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) _ The soldiers who helped overthrow the Ceausescu regime won another victory today when the provisional government appointed a new defense minister of their choosing to replace the one they forced out.

Victor Anastase Stanculescu, a lieutenant general who was the economic minister, was named to replace Defense Minister Nicolae Militaru.

The appointment climaxed a week-long protest by junior and middle-level officers who demanded the dismissal of 74-year-old Militaru because they said he had not carried out the democratic reforms called for in the December revolution that toppled hard-line Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.

On Thursday night, state-run television broadcast a frank but edited tape of talks between Deputy Prime Minister Gelu Voican Voiculescu and 58 officers from 38 units who presented a list of 13 demands including Militaru’s ouster.

At one point, Voiculescu asked the officers who they would wanted as defense chief and they said Stanculescu.

At Stanculescu’s installation ceremony today, interim President Ion Iliescu said the new minister ″has prestige in the army and is appreciated by its command.″ Militaru, Iliescu said, ″did not succeed in establishing a real communication with the army’s command, aggravating the situation in the army to a point at which it became a source of tension for all of society.″

Iliescu said Romania still faces ″a grave situation of the political, social and economic spheres.″

He did not say who would head the economic ministry.

The appointment of a new defense minister defused the first challenge by the military to the government it helped create in December’s revolution.

At its first meeting Friday, the 21-member Executive Bureau of the ruling Council of National Unity endorsed the creation of a commission to investigate all the officers’ demands and expressed hope that the measures taken by the government would calm the situation in the country. Iliescu heads the bureau.

Thousands of civilians had flocked to Victory Square in Bucharest to support the officers, whose decision to back the popular uprising in December was crucial to winning the revolution. Similar demonstrations were held in Timisoara and the port of Constanta.

The newspaper Tineretul Liber reported today that a big demonstration backing the officers was also held in Brasov, Romania’s second-largest city, on Friday. Protesters shouted, ″The army is with us, and we are with the army.″ The newspaper Adevarul said today that before Iliescu’s announcement, the national news agency Rompres had received a statement from a committee of the Military Central Command backing the officers’ call for Militaru’s resignation.

The committee called for the ministry to be run by generals and officers ″not compromised during the revolution.″ It also demanded the retirement of all officers, like Militaru, who were recalled to active duty during the revolution.

Navy officers from Tulcea in the Danube delta also backed the officers, the newspaper Romania Libera reported.

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