BUCHAREST, Romania — Interim President Ion Iliescu met with election observers from the United States and more than a dozen other countries Friday, assuring them that Sunday's multi-party polls will be fair.
Hundreds of anti-Communist demonstrators, meanwhile, defied a ban on political rallies and swore to remain in central Bucharest until Romania has a government untainted by links to Nicolae Ceausescu.
"Our round-the-clock protest will continue until we get our liberty back, until democracy is restored in our country!" protest leader Dumitru Dinca shouted to demonstrators in downtown University Square, Bucharest's main traffic artery.
Demonstrators have occupied the square since April 22, demanding that Iliescu and other former Communists quit politics. Iliescu became interim president after the overthrow and execution of Communist dictator Ceausescu in December, and is heavily favored in Sunday's presidential election.
More than 100 observers from the United States alone have traveled to Romania to monitor balloting in the country's first democratic elections in half a century.
Their large number was believed to reflect international concern following a raucus, divisive campaign marked by sporadic violence and allegations of bullying and campaign sabotage by the National Salvation Front, which dominates the provisional government.
"The Romanians know the future of our relations will be determined at the outset by the question of whether the elections are truly fair," said Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.).
"But I do hope (the government) understands that our presence is a compliment to what happened here," he said, referring to the December revolution that ended four decades of Communist dictatorship.