New Romanian PM holds talks to form new govt

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By ALINA WOLFE MURRAY, Associated Press

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Romania's newly appointed prime minister began talks Tuesday to form a new government after the previous one collapsed following protests over austerity measures and declining living standards.

Mihai Razvan Ungureanu, a former foreign minister and former head of Romania's foreign intelligence service, was appointed by President Traian Basescu late Monday.

Emil Boc, who had been prime minister since 2008, said he resigned Monday "to defuse political and social tension" after thousands of Romanians took to the streets in January to protest salary cuts, higher taxes and the perception the government did not care about the hardships faced by many in this nation of 22 million.

Romanians are growing increasingly angry about widespread cuts the government instituted to get a euro20 billion ($26 billion) loan from the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and the World Bank in 2009. The government needed the money to help pay salaries and pensions after its economy shrank more than 7 percent during the global credit crunch.

Boc accompanied Ungureanu, a 43-year-old with a pro-American outlook who is not a member of any party, to talks Tuesday with coalition partners who are likely to be invited into the new government.

Boc, who is also leader of the Democratic Liberal Party, the main group in the ruling coalition, said no current ministers would serve in the new government.

"All the ministers must take a step backward and we'll come forward with a new team ... that will bring fresh professional expertise," he said.

Ungureanu said he talked with three parliamentary groups and was working quickly but gave no timetable for when he would present his Cabinet. Parliament must approve Ungureanu and his ministers in 60 days, or the legislature will be dissolved and new elections held.

The opposition is currently boycotting Parliament and has said it will not vote for the new government.

In 2010, Boc's government increased the sales tax from 19 percent to 24 percent and cut public workers' salaries by a quarter to reduce the budget deficit.

Jeffrey Franks, the head of the IMF mission to Romania, has said he is confident the economic reforms the IMF has demanded in exchange for the loan would continue even with a new government. Romania's economy is expected to grow from 1.5 to 2.3 percent this year.

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