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Thousands gather for funeral of Romanian poet

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BUCHAREST, ROMANIA (AP) - Thousands of Romanians gathered Sunday for the funeral of Adrian Paunescu, one of the country's most famous poets whose verse struck a chord despite odes he wrote to late Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.

Paunescu died Friday of multiple organ failure aged 67, and the nation immediately went into mourning for the larger-than-life poet. He was buried with military honors , as television stations covered the hours-long ceremony live.

"God loved the Romanian people so much that he gave us this volcano of a man ... who was born for poetry that flowed from his brilliant mind," said Corneliu Vadim Tudor, a nationalist politician, writer and friend of Paunescu.

Carrying flowers and beeswax candles, thousands of mourners gathered hours ahead of his funeral at the Bellu Cemetery in south Bucharest where he was buried next to another famous Romanian man of letters, the 19th-century poet Mihai Eminescu.

Paunescu was born in Moldova when that country was part of the Soviet Union and moved to Romania when he was a child. Many Moldovans came to his funeral.

Romanians chose not to dwell on the odes Paunescu wrote about Ceausescu, the late Romanian dictator who was executed during the bloody anti-communist revolt in 1989, when where more than 1,000 people were killed.

Mourners recalled his poetry, acts of generosity toward ordinary people, and Flacara, the liveliest magazine under communism when censorship was strict.

Former Premier Adrian Nastase called for a day of mourning. President Traian Basescu said he admired Paunescu's poetry but not his left-wing politics.

"He was a great hero of this country," said 46-year-old nurse Alis Turtulea. "God spoke to Romanians through him."

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