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DISSIDENT WILLING TO BECOME PRESIDENT

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He was harassed, reviled and often imprisoned for challenging the Communist government. Now, dissident playwright Vaclav Havel says he is willing to become president.

Havel, a banned playwright and leader of the opposition movement that has brought the hard-line government to its knees, has repeatedly declined political office. But, when asked again Thursday if he would accept the presidency if it was offered, he said he would."I have repeatedly said that my occupation is a writer and that I have no political ambitions. I don't feel myself to be a professional politician but have always put the public interest ahead of my own," he told a crowded news conference in the Laterna Magika theater."

He stressed that nobody is pushing his candidacy and that he would assume the presidency only if this was the only way out of the standoff between the beleaguered government and the increasingly powerful opposition movement.