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Romania President

ALEXANDRU ALEXE | May 16, 2007 04:24 PM EST | AP


BUCHAREST, Romania — Romania's suspended president, who faces an impeachment referendum this week, vowed Wednesday to carry out reforms to stop political corruption.

Parliament, which is dominated by parties opposing President Traian Basescu, suspended him last month on allegations that he violated the constitution by usurping the role of the prime minister and criticizing the courts. The Constitutional Court had ruled that Basescu did not break the law, but its ruling was nonbinding and allowed parliament to make its own decision.

"Romanians will choose in the referendum between my option, to build a modern state, and the lawmakers' option, to leave things as they are," he said in an interview with The Associated Press at his campaign's headquarters in downtown Bucharest.

He claimed lawmakers abused their power by suspending him. Five political parties ideologically opposed to each other united to suspend him because they wanted to stop anti-corruption measures and political reform, he said.

"It was a political decision. I'd say it was a sort of coup," Basescu said. "The president can't be held responsible by parliament, he can only be responsible in front of the Romanian people."

Polls show more than 70 percent of Romanians intend to back Basescu, a former commercial ship captain and Bucharest mayor who is known for his outspoken style. The referendum is set for Saturday.

Basescu has been at odds with lawmakers, accusing them of drafting laws for special interests. He has also clashed with Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu, a former ally who he accused of tolerating corruption in the Cabinet.

His first confrontation with parliament came last year when he presented a report by a panel of experts condemning the crimes of the former Communist regime.

"It declared the regime as illegal and illegitimate as it was imposed on Romania by Soviet tanks and it ended with the fall of (former Communist dictator Nicolae) Ceausescu when Romanian tanks were on the streets," Basescu said.

He added that some leading lawmakers, including former President Ion Iliescu and nationalist leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor, were named in the report as having been part of the Communist regime.

Basescu also irked lawmakers last year by ordering the secret services to declassify more than 1.5 million files from the Communist-era secret police, the Securitate, an action that led to several politicians being exposed as former collaborators.

The president himself faced allegations of collaboration but his Securitate file was not found. He said the main reason for his conflict with lawmakers was his determination to shield prosecutors and judges from traditional interference from politicians.