WARSAW — LECH WALESA was sworn in Saturday as Poland's first freely elected president since before World War II. In the presidential oath ceremony, Mr. Walesa proclaimed the birth of a new Poland and celebrated the passing of four decades of totalitarian rule. ``The evil period is ending, when the authorities of our state were chosen under foreign pressure or as a result of forced compromises,'' he said.
Walesa replaces Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, the former Communist Party leader who jailed him and thousands of other union activists in the early 1980s.
The new president takes the reins of a country in political crisis following the resignation of Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki, who was in third place behind Walesa and 'emigr'e businessman Stanislaw Tyminski in the first round of the presidential election last month.
Walesa has so far failed to find a new prime minister to lead the country through a tough transitional period to parliamentary elections expected next spring. He is expected to relaunch political consultations immediately after Christmas.
In his speech, Walesa promised to speed up privatization of the economy and the transition to full democracy.
Romanians remember those slain a year ago
Several hundred Romanians blocked Bucharest's University Square Saturday, saying prayers and lighting candles for more than 1,000 people killed in the revolution that toppled Nicolae Ceausescu a year ago.
Small groups of youths waving national flags marched around the city chanting antigovernment slogans and demanding the resignation of President Ion Iliescu and his National Salvation Front (NSF) government.
Romanian opposition has accused the NSF and the Army of staging last year's coup only to topple Ceausescu while trying to preserve the old order.
Mr. Iliescu denied the accusations while addressing a special parliament session Friday.
Many Romanians feel that the NSF, despite its landslide victory in last May's election, has betrayed the ideals of the revolution, as the country faces serious food shortages and economic chaos.
Albanians call for reforms
Cries of ``freedom'' and ``democracy'' rang out from a crowd of 15,000 demonstrators Saturday as Albania's new opposition leaders called for the release of all political prisoners and postponement of February elections.
The rally at Tirana University was the first peaceful antigovernment demonstration since the Democratic Party was created 10 days ago. At that time, Albania's communist leaders abandoned four decades of rigid Stalinism.
Sali Berisha, one of the Democratic Party leaders, read out a list of demands that included postponing the country's first multiparty elections until May so the opposition can organize properly. The party also demanded the communist government change its election law of last month, because ``this was created by the party in power and it is not suited to Albanian conditions and mentality.''
Lithuania prepares to resist expected crackdown
The rebel Baltic republic of Lithuania said Saturday it was preparing to resist an expected crackdown by the Kremlin on separatists. Lithuanian President Vytautas Landsbergis told a meeting of the republic's ruling Sajudis independence movement that ``resistance and self-defense measures'' were required if Moscow imposed presidential rule.
The mayor of the big Lithuanian port of Klaipeda said this week that the local army garrison commander had been authorized by Moscow to step up military patrols and to check documents of ``suspicious civilians.''