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Romania: President Sacks Prime Minister

Bucharest, 14 December 1999 (RFE/RL) -- Romanian President Emil Constantinescu dismissed Prime Minister Radu Vasile after more than half the cabinet resigned yesterday. A presidential spokesman announced the dismissal this morning. He said Vasile was sacked because the president no longer believed the prime minister could fulfill his duties after 10 of the 17 cabinet ministers resigned. Constantinescu named former Social Protection Minister Alexandru Athanasiu as interim prime minister. Vasile was appointed prime minister last year after Victor Ciorbea resigned amid accusations he had failed to implement economic reforms quickly enough.

Vasile initially refused to step down for what he called "moral reasons." He accused Constantinescu and the Christian Democrats of plotting against him. Vasile said he will consult legal experts to decide whether to fight the dismissal in court. Correspondents say the move may contradict the 1991 constitution. Parliament is due to meet later today to discuss the matter. The ministers resigned yesterday after the ruling Christian Democrat party withdrew its support for Vasile. Party leader Ion Diaconsecu said the government needed a prime minister with more "team spirit and faster solutions."