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Romania President Swears In New Foreign Minister

Romania's new Foreign Minister Cristian Diaconescu
Romanian President Traian Basescu has sworn in a new foreign minister, a day after Prime Minister Emil Boc sacked his predecessor over disparaging remarks about street protesters.

Small and mainly peaceful protests against austerity measures have been staged daily in the capital and several other Romanian cities for more than 12 days.
Basescu told the new foreign minister, Cristian Diaconescu, that his main mission will be to reaffirm Romania's determination to continue reforms and austerity measures meant to pull the country out of the economic crisis.

"You have a difficult mission -- and I would say, after what I saw on television, almost impossible -- to [relay the message] that Romania has the strength to continue, and this should be the main message to relay to your counterparts in the European Union, those across the Atlantic and others," Basescu said.
Diaconescu, 52, previously served as foreign minister in 2009 in a coalition government led by Boc.
Diaconescu is a former member of the ex-communist opposition Social Democratic Party (PSD) and is now a leader of the newly formed center-left National Union for the Progress of Romania.
His predecessor Teodor Baconschi was fired on January 23 after criticizing on his personal blog demonstrators who clashed with riot police during protests earlier this month in Bucharest.

Protests Continue

Larger protests were held on January 24 as Romania celebrated a national holiday -- the Day of Unity.
At least 2,000 protesters protested outside the government building in Bucharest, and some 5,000 people participated in a protest march organized by opposition parties in the northeastern city of Iasi.
Basescu, in his first public remarks about the protests, accused opposition figures and the private media outlets of indulging in what he called "the joy of destruction," and of undermining and ignoring his government's achievements.
Basescu also compared the leaders of the opposition -- PSD head Victor Ponta and National Liberal Party leader Crin Antonescu -- to Moldova's ex-President Vladimir Voronin, who is also leading the Communist opposition in the Moldovan parliament.
Romania signed up for a 20 billion euro ($26 billion) loan with the IMF, European Union, and World Bank in 2009 to help pay salaries and pensions when the economy shrunk by more than 7 percent.
In 2010, the government raised value added tax from 19 to 24 percent and cut public workers salaries by 25 percent to reduce the budget deficit.

Romanians are also protesting against cronyism and widespread corruption.

with agency reports