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Protests heat up in Romania

BUCHAREST, Romania – Romanian police fired tear gas and clashed with protesters during an anti-government rally Saturday, the third consecutive day of demonstrations against government austerity cuts and falling living standards.

The protests were the most serious since President Traian Basescu came to power in 2004 and were the result of pent-up frustration against public wage cuts, slashed benefits, higher taxes and widespread corruption.

The unlikely catalyst for the protests, however, was the resignation of a popular health official Tuesday after he opposed health reforms proposed by the government. On Friday, Basescu told the government to scrap the reforms, but public anger had already risen against Basescu and the government.