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Basescu Sworn In As Romanian President --> Basescu (file photo) 21 December 2004 -- Traian Basescu yesterday officially became Romania's new president, replacing Ion Iliescu, who led the country for 11 of the past 15 years.

In a ceremony before a joint session of the lower house and senate, Basescu swore to "dedicate" all of his "strength" and "ability for the spiritual and material welfare of the Romanian people" during his five-year term.

Basescu pledged to fight corruption and poverty, and carry out reforms to prepare the country for European Union membership, expected in 2007. He also vowed to improve democracy and press freedoms, and protect state institutions from political interference.

Basescu's Justice and Truth Alliance and the rival Social Democrats -- neither of which hold a parliamentary majority -- have each been talking with smaller parties in hopes of building a coalition.