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After a secret two-hour trial by military tribunal, deposed Romanian President Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife, Elena, were executed this week at an undisclosed army installation by a firing squad. While the removal of the Ceausescus from power is unlamented, the haste and secrecy of their trial and subsequent execution is regrettable.

The deposed president and his wife - who functioned as his second-in-command - were found guilty by the tribunal of genocide, specifically the murder of 60,000 Romanians during Ceausescu's reign, looting the impoverished nation's econcomy of $1 billion for their personal gain, and of other crimes against the state.While there is little doubt about the guilt of the Ceausescus, it is unfortunate and ironic that unelected officers in the new Romanian government chose a secret military trial and swift execution by firing squad rather than a public trial to dispose of the former leader and his wife.

The new government has pledged itself to democratic reforms and programs, but one of its first actions is straight out of the past, the kind of brutality that spurred the nation's bloody revolution.

The leaders of the new government, calling itself the National Salvation Front, argued it was necessary to quickly and permanently remove Ceausescu because elements of his fanatic private security force were planning an attack to free him.

His presence in the country was a rallying point for the Securitate, they said, and served only to prolong the savage fighting, the worst Europe has seen since the end of World War II.

The slackening of the fighting perhaps proves them correct but doesn't erase the stain on the new regime.

President Bush's course of action, closely paralleling that of other East and West bloc countries, is to deplore the Front's action but recognize it as the legal government of Romania.

Bush and other world leaders have promised immediate medical and humanitarian aid to Romania.

The implied but unspoken promise is of more substantial aid in the future as the new government "struggles to achieve its announced democratic values," according to the official U.S. statement.

What Bush is really saying is this: We don't like what you did to Ceausescu and his wife, but we do like the idea of Romania joining the other Eastern European countries in a move toward democracy. Now show us what you can do; we might be able to help you.