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Former Exile Says Front Hurting Revolution; Hundreds Defy Ban on Protests

January 25, 1990

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) _ A former diplomat who returned home after 50 years in exile said Thursday he fears the gains of the pro-democracy revolutution are being thwarted by the provisional government.

Ion Ratiu, who arrived Wednesday, joined opposition parties in denouncing the decision of the governing National Salvation Front to compete in elections in May.

″This is a negation of democracy in my view,″ he said.

For the second straight night, about 300 people gathered outside Front headquarters to demand the governing body’s resignation, despite a ban on such protests.

The protesters, about 150 feet from the building, shouted ″Down with the Front 3/8″ and ″The National Salvation Front equals the Commmunist Party of Romania 3/8″ Between them and the building stood two lines of police and soldiers in armored vehicles, their guns pointed at the protesters.

A similar rally Wednesday ended peacefully.

In apparent response to that protest, the governing body Thursday again published in newspapers a decree outlawing demonstrations on Bucharest streets without police permits.

Critics say the provisional government cannot remain neutral if it takes part in elections that it administers, and some accuse it of being a front for Communist rule.

The U.S. State Department said Thursday Romania’s leaders had gone too far in banning protests in Bucharest and urged them to reaffirm their commitment to democratic rule.

Three opposition parties called for the Front to resign and for a broader- based interim government to rule until the May 20 elections. The joint communique indicated the parties have formed an alliance against the Front.

Ratiu, 72, heads the World Union of Free Romanians, the largest Romanian exile organization.

Ratiu was a Romanian diplomat in Britain in 1940 and asked for political asylum when a Nazi government took over his country that year. He moved to Britain and became a millionaire through property and shipping interests.

″I’ve come to this country ... after having been steeped in Western democracy ... I’ve come to this country to help establish real democracy,″ he said Thursday.

Asked whether he was worried about losing the gains of the revolution that ended one-party Communist rule, Ratiu said: ″I am worried and certainly will do my best to prevent it, because ... people sacrificed their lives for real democracy.″

He said he was most concerned that the Front was not providing equal access to all parties on radio, television and newspapers. He said he plans to start a newspaper.

Ratiu hopes to be a candidate for the National Peasant Party in his hometown of Turda in western Transylvania.

Asked if he would accept an offer to run for president, he replied, ″I will accept to serve in whatever capacity they ask me.″

Ion Puiu, the party’s vice president, on Wednesday called Ratiu ″one of the greatest figures of our party.″

Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu was overthrown in the revolution Dec. 22 and executed three days later, and the National Salvation Front was to rule until the elections. It first said it would not field candidates, but it reversed itself Tuesday.

″Illusions Lasted Only One Month,″ read a headline Thursday in Romania Libera.

″What kind of elections are we talking about when the National Salvation Front has monopolized in a totalitarian way all the key systems of the state,″ read the opposition parties’ communique.

It repeated allegations that some Front members were Ceausescu henchmen who want to reinstate Commmunist rule.

Former Foreign Minister Corneliu Manescu was quoted Thursday by the independent Paris daily Le Monde as saying former senior Communist officials were trying to re-establish the party.

″I have been asked ... several times by former officials who perhaps have not committed the same mistakes as others to support the creation of a ‘clean’ Communist Party,″ Manescu was quoted as saying. Manescu said he refused.

He was foreign minister from 1961 to 1972 and participated in the founding meetings of the Front after Ceausescu’s overthrow.

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