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STAR-CROSSED SWEETHEARTS REUNITED

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A Finnish exchange student and his American girlfriend, forced to split up for spending too much time together, have been reunited, but he has been dropped from the exchange program.

"It was great to see him - I've never seen Iiro smile so much in my life," Kelly LaPointe said this week. She and her parents picked Iiro Lehtinen up by car Tuesday night in Maine, where exchange officials had sent the 18-year-old high school student to separate him from LaPointe. "We were going to go in the morning, but he said `come now.' He wanted to get out of there and I don't blame him.""I'm glad it's over and I'm glad he's coming home. He considers Farmington his American home. Whenever he writes me he refers to this as home and says how much he wants to be back here."

Lehtinen is staying with Lou and Rod Waldron, a family just down the street from the LaPointe home. Called there Wednesday morning, Lehtinen said he was very happy and that his father is planning to visit him before Christmas.

State Rep. William Tsiros, one of the many people who intervened to help the young Romeo and Juliet, said he got "the good news" Tuesday evening from Meg Holliday, the eastern regional director of the Education Foundation for Foreign Study. Education Foundation officials transferred Lehtinen out of Farmington in the first place.

Holliday said Lehtinen was removed from the program after officials spoke with his parents in Finland and agreed that his goals had become incompatible with the program's.

"It was a very big headache and I'm not sure exactly why," said Holliday. "Students do move when there's a personality conflict" with the host family.

She said Lehtinen no longer will be sponsored by the foundation and probably will need a different type of visa with another sponsor if he chooses to remain in Farmington. Exchange officials will refund money his parents have paid and Lehtinen can handle his expenses independently, Holliday said.

After being sent to South Portland, an hour away by car, Lehtinen said he was limited to one visit with LaPointe and two telephone calls to her per month.

Because of the separation, about 100 of Farmington High School's 300 students boycotted classes one day last week. The couple's parents also were angered.

LaPointe's mother, Patricia LaPointe, said she planned to send letters and petitions to state and exchange officials after learning of the transfer to South Portland, about an hour away.

"I had two very upset teenagers here . . . always on the verge of tears," Mrs. LaPointe said.

Lehtinen's father, Kimmo, said from Finland he lobbied with foundation officials in his country. "Now he is sad and alone," he told the Dover newspaper Foster's Daily Democrat.

Tsiros said an attache in the Finnish embassy in Washington, D.C., became upset when she learned about the transfer.

"She said she was going to call the Education Foundation officials and was very irate at the whole situation," Tsiros said. "I don't know what she said, but it worked. I got the call from Meg Holliday a few hours later."

The relationship between LaPointe and Lehtinen began in September. On Nov. 11, the exchange program decided to transfer him. They said he was told to cool the relationship enough so that he could spend more time with his host family.

Susan Jackson, the foundation's regional coordinator in Berwick, Maine, said many aspects of an exchange experience, including the student's temporary "adoption" by an American family, were being overlooked as the story of thwarted young love took on a life of its own.

Lehtinen's host parents in Farmington, Mike and Diane Crowley, hardly saw him for days at a time, according to Jackson and Holliday. They said he would leave early in the morning for school and return late at night, acting more like a boarder than a family member.