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Amid the uproar there were lighter moments. Television cameras captured the president driving himself to work, puffing on a cigarette and speaking on his mobile phone in his Dacia Logan, a boxy, no-frills Romanian-manufactured car. Stuck in traffic like any regular commuter, Mr. Basescu joked with reporters.

It is rare for Romanian television to show the president smoking, and it is against the law to be on a phone while driving — although the rule is widely ignored by Romanians of all stripes.

Associated Press writer George Jahn contributed to this report from Vienna, Austria.