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Exiled King Michael of Romania said Friday he's ready to return to his country as head of a constitutional monarchy "if the people want me to come back."

"I have been waiting for this for 40 years," he told a news conference convened hastily after the reported overthrow of President Nicolae Ceausescu. "If people want me to come back, of course, I will come back.""Romania has had a constitutional monarchy before the war and it proved itself," he said. "If things turn the right way I don't see why this could not happen again."

Michael, 68, left his country in the first days of 1948 after signing an act of abdication, but he repeated Friday that he did so under duress.

"Therefore, I consider that I have remained king of Romania and the head of state for the past 40 years," he said. "It has never stopped."

He said he was flooded with telephone calls and messages telling him of the rapid developments in Romania but that he has had no direct contact with his native country up to now.

When asked about his feelings, he replied: "Overwhelmed."

"You cannot find the right words to express it," he said. "It has been a great relief and sadness at the same time because of this terrible bloodshed."

Before the question-and-answer session, which was mostly in English, he read a statement in French in which he paid "homage to my courageous compatriots, men and women."

He urged legalization of all democratic organizations and parties, free elections in six months, release of all political prisoners and "absolute respect for the transitional government."

Michael renewed an appeal for an end to violence and urged Romanians to adopt a spirit of reconciliation, "despite the humiliations and the cruel living conditions imposed on you."

Asked what he would suggest should be done with Ceausescu, he said: "Maybe I have some ideas," drawing laughter from the journalists.