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Ceausescu ousted in Romania, fighting in capital

By ERIKA LASZLO

BUDAPEST, Hungary -- Romanian President Nicolae Ceausescu's hard-line communist government fell Friday and troops loyal to the ousted dictator fought army units siding with pro-democracy demonstrators in Bucharest, leaving parts of the capital in flames, Eastern European media said.

Soviet television, the Yugoslav news agency Tanjug and the Polish news agency PAP said hundreds of people were either killed or wounded in Bucharest Friday when pro-Ceausescu forces staged a counterattack in a desperate bid to regain power.

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Paratroopers loyal to Ceausescu were airlifted into the capital Saturday just after midnight, and fighting was reported in underground subway lines and in the studios of the Romanian television, which was in the hands of army soldiers loyal to the pro-democracy forces, Romanian television reported.

Lights in the Romanian television station went out briefly. When the power was restored, a commentator said: 'Everybody has to fight today. We have to make sacrifices for democracy.' A soldier with a rifle appeared later and said the loyalist forces had been driven back and the situation was under control.

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Loyalist paratroopers also reportedly landed in Timisoara and new fighting erupted in the city, Romanian television said. Pro-democracy forces had been in control of the city, which was surrounded and under a blockade by army troops loyal to Ceausescu.

Fighting between Ceausescu loyalists and pro-reform army units was reported earlier in the town of Sibiu, 140 miles northwest of Bucharest, Radio Bucharest said. In Arad, loyalist soldiers fired into a crowd of pro-democracy revelers, Hungarian television said.

Despite the new offensive by loyalist forces, Romanian television and other East European news agencies said pro-reform army forces appeared to have the upper hand.

A spokesman for the Romanian Armed Forces command in a nationally televised statement said 'small but vicious' bands of Ceausescu's personal bodyguards were still operating in isolated pockets in the capital. They were heavily armed and dangerous. But he promised: 'The army will emerge victorious.'

Larger units at the old Royal Palace and the Communist Party Central Committee headquarters had been defeated by army units or surrendered in fierce fighting.

The whereabouts of Ceausescu and his wife, Elena, were unclear. The Romanian news agency said the two had been captured at Tirgoviste, 50 miles northwest of Bucharest, trying to flee the country after being whisked out of the capital by helicopter.

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Later reports from Romanian news media said Ceausescu was being returned to the capital by pro-reform forces. But Romanian television said the pair had already fled the country. It gave no other details.

Ceausescu's son, Nicu, a regional Communist Party boss, was arrested by citizens in Sibiu after allegedly trying to take hostages to escape, Romanian television reported.

Later, a man identified as Nicu Ceausescu was hauled intoa Romanian television studio by armed police and soldiers and displayed to the nation in a live broadcast.

'We mustn't act in a hostile way to this prisoner of ours,' said an officer in a blue uniform holding the man's arm. 'We must treat him as a prisoner. He's going to be judged by our people now. The moment is coming when we have to analyze his deeds.'

The man was dressed casually in a green winter jacket, black T-shirt and slacks. The left side of his face was bruised, and he was surrounded by a shouting mob of workers and soldiers in the studio.

'He told us that he ... ordered the security officers not to use the weapons against the people,' one man said.

'We want him to tell us a few words,' said another.

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'No ... the despots have spoken enough,' said yet another, waving his right hand.

Meanwhile, Hungarian television, describing heavy fighting near the state radio and television stations, declared: 'Bucharest is aflame.'

The fighting, also near Communist Party headquarters, which Soviet state television said was 'partially blown up,' was in flames.

'There are hundreds of dead and wounded,' Soviet television said.

In Washington, the State Department said it had reports of fighting in the capital but provided few details.

Romanian radio said residents were building anti-tank barricades on two main routes leading to the state television station, which has become the unofficial headquarters of the pro-democracy movement. Looting was rampant, several news agencies said.

A British diplomat in Bucharest said pro-Ceausescu forces were well armed and desperate, fearing possible lynch mobs in retaliation for their years of terror.

'It is a desperate bid by well-armed forces who know if they don't kill, they will be killed,' First Secretary Jonathan Lamb told the British Boradcasting Corp.

By nightfall in the capital, the city's main square was jammed with about 100,000 demonstrators waiting for official news about Ceausescu's whereabouts, Romanian television reported.

The new leader of the East European nation is former Foreign Minister Corneliu Manescu, official reports from Belgrade, Yugoslavia, and Budapest said. It is likely the 73-year-old communist will be a caretaker leader until a new government can be formed.

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x x x be formed.

Manescu said on national television: 'We are not hooligans. We are patriots who have managed to do what the heroic people of Timisoara did. We are the true Romanians.'

An unidentified general appearing on the television appealed for calm and urged the population to 'bear the (upheaval) with dignity.'

Former Communist Party Secretary Ion Iliescu announced on Romanian television that the Committee for National Salvation has been formed and was meeting Friday evening, Tass quoted the official Romanian news agency Agerpress as saying.

Later, the committee made up of reform-minded communists and dissidents announced a 23-point 'radical plan' for change, Romanian radio and TV monitored in Warsaw, Poland, said.

The plan includes the release of all political prisoners, freedom to travel abroad, the dismantling of the internal secret police, trials for former party officials, free elections, a new constitution and such minor reforms as a more liberal abortion law and an end to gasoline rationing.

'Romania is now free. Ceausescu is down,' Bucharest radio announced at the outset of the upheaval.

'We came here to tell you that the dictator has fallen. The country has rid itself of those who plundered it for many years,' the Soviet Tass news agencyquoted the radio announcer as saying.

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Late last week, anti-government protests erupted in the Transylvanian capital of Timisoara. Reports said police and soldiers may have killed thousands in the region.

Those protests were triggered by the attempted arrest of dissident human rights activist the Rev. Laszlo Tokes, a Timisoara clergyman of the Romanian Reformed church.

Tokes, who had been missing since Sunday night and was feared dead, was 'alive, in good health and free,' Bucharest television said. It said Toke presided over a church service Friday and urged Romanians to continue to fight to oust the old communist regime.

The Hungarian news agency and the U.S. National Broadcasting Corporation said Friday mass graves had been discovered in the Timisoara region where dead protestors were dumped by police.

The Hungarian news agency MTI said there were 632 bodies in one grave while an NBC cameraman said he saw at least 100 bodies.

The new government in Romania, meanwhile, launched a nationwide manhunt for Ceausescu before he was captured.

Before his reported fall, Ceausescu had declared a nationwide state of emergency Friday and his defense minister, Gen. Vasile Milea, committed suicide, Tass and Tanjug reported. Milea killed himself after Ceausescu accused him of working for a 'foreign espionage center and against the Romanian people,' Tanjug said.

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Another report carried by the Romanian media said Milea had been killed in a shootout between army units and Ceausescu loyalists.

The reported ouster of Ceausescu, who has ruled Romania since 1965 in a sometimes brutal fashion, follows recent upheavals in western Romania, where police and soldiers clashed with pro-democracy protesters.

The protests spread Thursday and Friday to Bucharest, where more civilians were reported killed. But as it became apparent Ceausescu was losing control Friday, Tanjug reported that 'demonstrators and troops were united as brothers and together were on tanks.'

Tass reported that 'columns of demonstrators,' possibly totaling several hundred thousand, had gathered in Bucharest's city center and shouted, 'The army is with us' and 'Down with the dictatorship.'

An official propaganda campaign backfired Thursday in Bucharest when Ceausescu, an aloof, hard-line neo-Stalinist, appeared at a rally intended to be a major show of support for the Communist Party. He was booed and his speech disrupted.

Also Thursday, troops fired on pro-democracy demonstrators protesting in three Romanian cities, European news reports said. Tanks were in Bucharest to back up soldiers who fired on demonstrators with automatic weapons, the reports said.

East German television, quoting the official East German news agency ADN, reported that 3,000 to 4,000 people died when armed police and soldiers fired into weekend crowds in Timisoara, the focal point of the uprising.

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Late last week, anti-government protests erupted in the Transylvanian capital of Timisoara. Reports said police and soldiers may have killed thousands in the region.

'I appeal to the Romanian people which shot at people; this is impermissible. I appeal for the (security police) -- you are Romanians like were are.'

The car Ceausescu fled in was described over television while an unidentified general asked for the fallen leader's capture, said Bucharest television reports reaching Belgrade.

'Do not lynch him. We have to put him on trial,' the television quoted the general as saying.

The TV announcer pleaded for peace and order but looting was reported in some parts of the capital.

Hungarian radio reported he may have wanted to head for Tehran or Beijing. Ceausescu completed a state visit to Iran this week.

Before his reported fall, Ceausescu had declared a nationwide state of emergency Friday and his defense minister, Gen. Vasile Milea, committed suicide, Tass and Tanjug reported. Milea killed himself after Ceausescu accused him of working for a 'foreign espionage center and against the Romanian people,' Tanjug said.

The reported ouster of Ceausescu, who has ruled Romania since 1965 in a sometimes brutal fashion, follows recent upheavals in western Romania, where police and soldiers clashed with pro-democracy protesters.

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The protests spread Thursday and Friday to Bucharest, where more civilians were reported killed.

But as it became apparent Ceausescu was losing control Friday, 'Demonstrators and troops were united as brothers and together were on tanks,' Tanjug reported.

Tass reported that 'columns of demonstrators,' possibly totaling several hundred thousand, had gathered in Bucharest's city center and shouted, 'The army is with us' and 'Down with the dictatorship.'

U.S. Embassy official Aggie Kuperman, speaking from Bucharest, could not confirm the report of Ceausescu's fall.

An official propaganda campaign backfired Thursday in Bucharest when Ceausescu, an aloof, hard-line neo-Stalinist, appeared at a rally intended to be a major show of support for the Communist Party. He was booed and his speech disrupted.

On Thursday, troops fired on pro-democracy demonstrators protesting in three Romanian cities, European news reports said. Tanks were in Bucharest to back up soldiers who fired on demonstrators with automatic weapons, the reports said.

In Washington, the State Department said a report from the U.S. Embassy in Bucharest confirmed that at least 13 demonstrators died in clashes Thursday in the Romanian capital.

Spokesman Richard Boucher cited news reports and accounts from the embassy and said casualty figures are difficult to come by but 'a massacre of undetermined proportions is believed to have taken place' in recent days.

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East German television, quoting the official East German news agency ADN, reported that 3,000 to 4,000 people died when armed police and soldiers fired into weekend crowds in the western Romanian town of Timisoara, the focal point of the uprising.

In Timisoara, the Transylvanian capital, Tass said a general strike had crippled the city of about 300,000, and workers occupied factories, threatening to blow them up unless army units were withdrawn and the government resigned.

x x x quite restrained.'

Former Foreign Minister Corneliu Manescu has taken power in the country, Tanjug said.

Ceausescu's wife, Elena, fled with her husband, Belgrade radio said.

Tanjug reported Ceausescu fled aboard his helicopter from his compound residence in Bucharest.

'The Ceaucescu regime has fallen,' said Hungarian radio. 'The former foreign minister has taken charge of a group (the National Front for the Salvation of Romania), which wants to save the country.'

On Thursday, troops fired on pro-democracy demonstrators protesting in three Romanian cities, European news reports said. Tanks were used in Bucharest to back up soldiers who fired on demonstrators with automatic weapons, the reports said.

Tass said 'panic-stricken' protesters were seeking shelter in doorways and courtyards.

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The Czechoslovak news agency CTK said tanks had surrounded the Communist Party headquarters in Bucharest to prevent protesters from storming the building.

In Washington, the State Department said a report from the U.S. Embassy in Bucharest confirmed that at least 13 demonstrators died in clashes Thursday in the Romanian capital.

Early Friday, the State Deparment said it was ordering the evacuation of dependents of U.S. Embassy employees and non-essential personnel affiliated with the mission.

The department also issued a travel advisory, warning Americans in Romania to leave and urging Americans not enter the Eastern European country.

Spokesman Richard Boucher cited news reports and accounts from the embassy and said casualty figures are difficult to come by but 'a massacre of undetermined proportions is believed to have taken place.'

East German television, quoting the official East German news agency ADN, reported that 3,000 to 4,000 people died when armed police and soldiers fired into weekend crowds in the western Romanian town of Timisoara, the focal point of the uprising.

Other unconfirmed, unofficial reports elsewhere in Eastern Europe spoke of a death toll ranging from several hundred to 2,000.

The Yugoslav and Soviet news agencies reporting from Bucharest said two people were crushed to death when an armored army vehicle rammed a crowd of protesters in center city.

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In Timisoara, the Transylvanian capital, Tass said a general strike has crippled the city of about 300,000, and workers have occupied factories, threatening to blow them up unless army units are withdrawn and the government resigns.

The mushrooming anti-government demonstrations present the most serious challenge to the rule of Ceausescu, the lone holdout against a tide of change sweeping the Soviet bloc.

News reports from Yugoslavia, the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia and France said pro-democracy demonstrators defied bullets, tanks and clubs at burgeoning street protests across the country, chanting, 'Down with Ceausescu! Down! Down!' No official casualty figures were available.

An official propaganda campaign backfired in Bucharest when Ceausescu, an aloof, hard-line neo-Stalinist, appeared at a rally intended to be a major show of support for the Communist Party.

Sections of the large crowd in the center of Bucharest burned his picture, booed and catcalled, the Yugoslav national news agency Tanjug said.

As police struggled to maintain order, a large column of placard-waving protesters tried to force its way toward the rally and police opened fire with tear gas, Tanjug said. Tanks appeared on the scene and ambulances rushed in, it said.

Tanjug said police fired live rounds at or toward the crowds. But the Hungarian state news agency said the shots in Bucharest may have been a machine gun fired accidentally.

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Tass said demonstrators were chanting 'freedom' and 'down with the dictatorship.' It said tanks rolled through the capital 'pushing the demonstrators along Bucharest's main throughfare' and 'automatic weapon fire can be heard.' Tass also said helicopters were flying over the capital.

Ceausescu's speech, broadcast live on Romanian radio and monitored by the British Broadcasting Corp. in London, was suspended for several minutes in the pandemonium. Music was played and then Ceausescu's voice was heard again, starting in mid-sentence.

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