BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) _ In their last hours of life, Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu were defiant, unrepentant and dismissive of the secrety military tribunal that sentenced them to death, Romanian television showed.

Ceausescu, gaunt and looking his 71 years, repeatedly told the court he would answer only to the country's rubber-stamp parliament ''and the working- class'' for his actions.

His wife, restrained from speaking several times when her husband put his hand on her arm or leg, blasted back at unseen prosecutors accusing the family of stashing cash in Swiss banks.

''Prove it,'' she retorted. ''This is a base provocation.''

Ceausescu alternately remained silent after questions about his 24 years of dictatorial policy, or shouted replies in the raised voice he used in his most strident speeches.

''Everything that was said here was false, and I don't want to talk any more,'' he said.

''This was a coup d'etat and I don't answer your questions,'' he proclaimed at another point.

The couple sat silently as the indictment was read, charging them with genocide of more than 60,000 people, the undermining of the state and the economy, the destruction of historic monuments and attempting to flee by hiding more than $1 billion in foreign banks.

Ceausescu refused to answer key questions about who ordered the Dec. 17 shooting of unarmed civilians in the western city of Timisoara, the spark touching off the popular revolt that drove him from power.

Elena Ceausescu, who was effectively in charge of Romania Dec. 18-20 while her husband was in Iran, acted unconcerned when asked if she knew of the shooting in Timsisoara.

''What are you talking about?'' she demanded.

''Who ordered the shooting in Bucharest?'' a voice asked, referring to the shooting of protesters in Bucharest on Thursday, a day before the army backed the revolt and the Ceausescus were forced to flee.

''Nobody was shot in the Palace Square,'' Ceausescu said. He was referring to the square where he addressed a pro-government rally Thursday that turned into a demonstration against him.

The Ceausescus were captured Saturday in an underground bunker at an undisclosed location. They were tried, sentenced and shot to death by firing squad on Monday.

State television broadcast scenes from their trial on Tuesday just hours after showing, for the first time, scenes of their bodies slumped against a wall. A close-up showed Ceausescu's bloodied face, his eyes open.

It has not been disclosed where and exactly when they were tried and shot after the secret trial.

''Do you know what's happening now? Why are these people fighting in the street?'' the prosecutor demanded, referring to street battles between security troops loyal to Ceausescu and the army, which joined the people in revolt.

''The people are fighting the gangs of traitors who in collusion with foreign forces organized this coup d'etat,'' Ceausescu answered.

''Do you know that you were sacked as a president and a supreme commander of the army?'' the prosecutor asked.

''No, I do not recognize this. I am the President of the Socialist Republic of Romania,'' Ceausescu replied.

Asked why he exported food grown in the country and left his own people scraping by on meager rations, Ceausescu characteristically cited the inflated statistics he loved to use to justify his Stalinist policies.

''It's a lie that the people are hungry,'' he said.

''Why were the peasants going to Bucharest to buy bread?'' retorted the prosecutor. Ceausescu was silent.

At another point in the 40-minute broadcast, he defended his hated plan to ''systemize'' the countryside by moving peasants from villages to shoddy new housing in agro-industrial centers. He claimed the plan would bring more civilization to Romania's tradition-rich peasantry.

''I didn't want to destroy the villages, on the contrary it was a buildup of villages, they were supposed to get doctors, schools,'' he said.

''It was an improvement, not a destruction. They were to be the best villages in the world.''

The couple also was asked about the luxurious lifestyle of their daughter Zoia-Elena, captured by soldiers on Sunday.

Television has shown footage of her opulent villa, containing jewels and other artifacts from national museums and her two lapdogs, said to have been fed with imported meat weighed on golden scales.

''We don't have any villa,'' Ceausescu defiantly replied. Both he and his wife laughed when asked about the imported meat for pets.

''We lived like normal citizens. It's incredible what you are accusing us of,'' Ceausescu said.

''Did you ever suffer from any mental disorder?'' Elena was asked at one point. ''Oh, what a base provocation,'' answered the woman who p0211 ----- r w PM-Bush-Vacation 12-27 0737 PM-Bush-Vacation,0734 WASHINGTON TODAY: Quail Hunting a Tradition for President Busyh By TOM RAUM Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bush is winding up his first year as president pretty much the same way he ended the year before, and the year before that, going back several decades: quail hunting on a Texas ranch.

Bush aides say they hope he'll have better luck than last year, when dry conditions made the tiny game birds scarce.

The president will spend several days isolated - but never out of touch, aides insist - at the 10,000-acre Lazy F Ranch near Beeville in South Texas, owned by his friend, Houston millionaire Will Farish.

''It's been a tradition for the past 20 years,'' said aide Stephen Hart, who worked for Bush as vice president and has been along on several of the previous quail-hunting trips.

''They drive around the ranch in big specially designed trucks, then hunt with dogs. If they can catch turkey, too, then that's a big treat,'' Hart said.

In the past, Bush has hunted quail with a 20-gauge shotgun, dressed in snake-resistant chaps, heavy leather boots and an orange hunting cap.

Secretary of State James A. Baker III, expected to be along on the trip, is known to prefer turkey hunting, which requires greater patience.

But Bush, who likes to jump from event to event, has defended the sport of quail hunting as more to his liking - and has asserted that the birds are not to be regarded as cute animals but as wily, determined quarry.

''These aren't animals - these are wild quail, '' Bush declared during last year's trip in a remark that angered animal rights groups. ''You've got to eat. Our forefathers ate by harvesting game.''

The Texas office of The Fund for Animals has written to Bush asking him to cancel the hunt, and plans to have animal activists travel to Beeville to protest his activities if he carries out his hunting plans.

It seems likely that Bush and Baker will discuss another wily, determined quarry while on the ranch - deposed Panamanian dictator Manuel Antonio Noriega.

Noriega's decision to go Sunday to the Vatican embassy in Panama City, where he is currently in hiding, took a lot pressure off the Bush administration as it seeks to help restore post-invasion order in Panama.

However, aides said Bush never wavered from his determination to make the hunting trip, and that little - short of a major crisis - would force him to cancel the trip.

The town of Beeville, population about 15,000, is throwing a barbecue for the president tonight upon his arrival - but probably won't see him again. Once he enters the vast ranch, he is not expected to be seen publicly in the area. He will fly by helicopter directly to Houston on Friday.

Meanwhile, the Chamber of Commerce of neighboring Goliad, Texas, is fussing to the White House that the part of the ranch where Bush hunts is actually in Goliad, not Beeville - and that it should be able to share in the publicity.

But the sheriff of Goliad County, J.K. McMahan, says it's fine with him if the president keeps a low profile. Referring to recent stories that Colombian drug lords may have put a $30 million price on the president's head, McMahan said recently: ''I don't want him killed, period, but I damn sure don't want him killed in my county.''

Bush also plans to bracket his quail-hunting with two fishing expeditions - another endeavor in which the president has not had much recent luck.

Bush planned to fish for redfish in the Gulf of Mexico, off Corpus Christi, today on his way to Beeville.

And on New Year's Day, after spending several days in Houston, including a side trip on Sunday to two military hospitals in San Antonio to visit soldiers wounded in Panama, Bush will take about five hours out on his return to Washington to fish for bass on a private lake near Montgomery, Ala.

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The White House says it's glad that Time Magazine selected Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev to be ''Man of the Decade'' in its current year-end issue.

''We certainly congratulate him,'' said presidential spokesman Marlin Fitzwater. ''He has contributed greatly to the changes in Eastern Europe and reforms in his own country. They have all been very productive to Western interests. We congratulate him on it.''