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Moldova blames Romania over uprising

Chisinau — Moldova’s president blamed Romania Wednesday for a violent anti-Communist backlash by young protestors over a disputed election, sparking a diplomatic crisis between the two neighbours.

In their latest show of anger, around 1,000 protestors in Chisinau’s central square threw bottles at police, but there was nothing on the scale of Tuesday’s unrest when a rally drew 15,000 people and young rioters stormed parliament.

President Vladimir Voronin, whose Communist Party won Sunday’s controversial parliamentary election, accused Romania of instigating the unrest and warned that authorities would use force to put down further violence.

"Romania is involved in the events," Voronin said. "Patience has its limits. The influence of Romania is very serious and strong work by security services is tangible."

The Moldovan foreign ministry declared Romanian Ambassador Filip Teodorescu and his number-two diplomat personae non grata and gave them 24 hours to leave the country.

In Bucharest, the Romanian foreign ministry rejected Voronin’s accusation, calling it a "provocation," and also blasted as "absurd" a separate move by Voronin to reintroduce a visa regime for Romanian nationals.

During the unrest some protestors had shouted "We are Romanians!" and called for Moldova to reunite with its neighbour.

Moldova was part of Romania for some years until it was annexed by the Soviet Union in World War II and Romanian is its official language.

Voronin, a 67-year-old former Soviet official, said authorities had every right to stop further riots in his impoverished country of 4.3 million people wedged between Ukraine and Romania.

"I tried to not allow blood to flow in similar situations in 1989 and 1991," Voronin said, referring to his own widely-admired decision not to fire on protestors when he was interior minister in the last years of Soviet rule.

"But yesterday I was on the edge, as such a decision was needed. If this is repeated such measures could be taken. The authorities have every right to take them in line with the law," Voronin said.

Police kept a tight lid on the 1,000-strong demonstration Wednesday after retaking parliament from protestors overnight.

The bottle-throwing crowd shouted "Down with Communism!" and "Down with the Dictatorship!" and at one point tried to surge through police lines, but were pushed back, an AFP journalist witnessed.

The central elections commission said that a press conference announcing the final result of the vote had been pushed back from Wednesday to Friday, as opposition parties continued to dispute preliminary results.

Those results showed Voronin’s Communist Party of Moldova (PCRM) winning 61 out of 101 seats in parliament — just enough to control the selection of the next president.

Voronin is to step down shortly following the end of his second term and in Moldova the parliament elects the president.

A difference of one seat could give other parties a say in choosing Voronin’s successor. Pre-election opinion polls had shown the Communists winning, but not by such a wide margin.

A group of three liberal opposition parties won around 35 percent of the vote between them, compared to the Communists’ 50 percent.

In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that any calls to review the election results or hold a new vote were "absolutely groundless."

"I hope that the most serious conclusions will be drawn, including in the European Union," Lavrov added. In recent years Moscow has been suspicious of Western interference in post-Soviet elections.

Western observers had given a tentative stamp of approval to the election, saying it met "many international standards" but also noting some problems.

The European Union and United Nations have condemned Tuesday’s violence, in which around 100 people were injured, according to medical sources.

The mass rallies were instigated by youth activists spreading word in a viral Internet and SMS text message campaign, rather than by political parties.

The PCRM, which pledged to build a "European Moldova" while maintaining warm ties with Moscow, has ruled since 2001 when it became the first Communist party to win power in the ex-Soviet Union.

Predominantly agricultural Moldova is Europe’s poorest country with an average monthly wage of only 253 dollars. Over a quarter of its active population works abroad and their remittances are vital for its economy.