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NEW PRESIDENT HAS BEEN FRIEND TO GORBACHEV, FOE OF CEAUSESCU

SHARE NEW PRESIDENT HAS BEEN FRIEND TO GORBACHEV, FOE OF CEAUSESCU

Ion Iliescu, Romania's new president, is a former senior Communist official who was demoted for standing up to Nicolae Ceausescu and is said to be a close friend of Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev.

Ceausescu had stripped Iliescu of the prestigious post of party secretary and had him assigned to direct a publishing house.Iliescu, 59, announced on television Friday the formation of the National Salvation Committee, which he described as the "new organ of state power" in Romania. On Saturday, he announced Ceausescu's arrest.

Tuesday, Iliescu was appointed president by the provisional government.

He holds a university degree in business administration and also studied hydrology at Moscow University, where knowledgeable Romanians say he got to know Gorbachev.

While originally one of Ceausescu's close aides in the late 1960s as the man responsible for youth problems and propaganda, he was demoted from the Central Committee in 1971 and later from the Cabinet.

He became regional party secretary in Timisoara, western Roamania, and in Iasi, near the Soviet border, in the early 1970s and was summoned to Bucharest and named chairman of a council for water administration.

Fired from that job after a sharp exchange with Ceausescu and the dictator's wife, Elena, at a party meeting in the mid-1980s, Iliescu was named director of the Editura Tehnica publishing house.

His reported friendly ties with Gorbachev saved him from a more dramatic fall, informed sources said.

"Iliescu, as a local party chief, was very informal. He never used the word `comrade' when addressing people and was ready to talk to them as soon as they knocked at his door," said Cornelia Dimitriu, a university professor in Iasi, where Iliescu was sent in 1974 to serve as regional party secretary.