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Moldovan President Says He's Handing Over Power With 'Heavy Heart'

Vladimir Voronin has been in power in Moldova since 2001.

Vladimir Voronin has been in power in Moldova since 2001.

CHISINAU (Reuters) -- Moldova's long-serving Communist president, Vladimir Voronin, has said in a statement that he is leaving office and handing over power to pro-Western opponents.

"I hand over power into the hands of new authorities with heavy heart," Voronin said in the statement, published in morning newspapers.

"I don't believe that the politicians who united only on the basis of...smearing their own country and sharing top posts can offer a positive program to society," he added.

Four Western-leaning parties beat ruling Communists in snap parliamentary polls in July and now have the right to form a government. But the coalition they formed shortly after the election still lacks the eight votes needed to elect a new president.

Acting President Vladimir Voronin, in power since 2001, cannot run for a third four-year term.

He said last week that he would resign to become a parliamentarian, but his Communist Party hoped a court would uphold a procedural complaint that would have delayed the process of choosing a government.

Moldova, Europe's poorest country, is at a crossroads between further integration with the neighboring European Union and closer ties to Russia.

Whoever takes control will have to bring the country out of a deep recession and solve the year-long conflict of Transdniester -- a tiny breakaway Russian-speaking region.