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Romania's Former King Addresses Parliament

Former Romanian King Michael addresses parliament in Bucharest.
Romania's former monarch, King Michael, today delivered his first speech to parliament since Soviet-backed communists forced him to abdicate almost 65 years ago.

King Michael, who gave his speech the same day he turned 90 on October 25, received a standing ovation from lawmakers.

He told parliament that "we cannot have a future without respecting the past."

Michael also addressed Romanians living now in territories which were part of Romania before World War Two.

"We should never forget the Romanians and the Romanian lands taken from us following the division of Europe into spheres of influence," he said.

"It is their right to decide if they want to live in our country or if they want to stay separated."

Most of the territory of Bucharest's eastern neighbor, the republic of Moldova, was part of Romania before the war.

Michael, who took Romania out of its alliance with Nazi Germany in 1944 and arrested Hitler-backed dictator Ion Antonescu, was forced to abdicate in December 1947 by the new communist regime.

President Traian Basescu has criticized the former king for abdicating and called Michael "Russia's lackey."

Neither Basescu nor Prime Minister Emil Boc attended the speech.

However, many MPs from Basescu and Boc's governing Democratic Liberal Party were present.

Michael is Europe's oldest former monarch and the last surviving World War II head of a state that ended the conflict on the Allied side.

Several European royals, including Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf, will attend ceremonies marking his 90th birthday later on October 25 in Bucharest.

with agency reports