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Monday, August 9, 1999 Published at 19:06 GMT 20:06 UK

World: Europe

Ceausescu valuables on sale

A Buick Electra given to Nicolae Ceausescu by President Nixon

By Central Europe Correspondent Nick Thorpe

The sale of hundreds of items belonging to the former Romanian dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu, and his wife has started in Bucharest.

Proceeds from the auction, which is scheduled to last all week, will go to the state. The identity of the buyers is confidential.

It is almost 10 years since the former president and his wife Elena, were executed by a firing squad in the course of a violent social upheaval against their rule.

[ image: An oil painting of the former dictator's wife Elena is on sale along with her fur coats]
An oil painting of the former dictator's wife Elena is on sale along with her fur coats
But their memory still haunts the every day life of many Romanians. There have been exhibitions of items belonging to the family before, but this is the first sale.

On the first sale of the auction, a chess table presented to the couple by chess master, Gary Kasparov, was sold for $2,400. More than 120 items are up for sale at starting prices which total $300,000.

These include several cars presented by former US President, Richard Nixon, former French President, Francois Mitterrand, and the Shah of Iran.

There are also fur coats belonging to the former president's wife, who played a prominent role in public life during her husband's 25 year rule.

Other aspects of the Ceausescu legacy appear more difficult to deal with.

Two army commanders were recently found guilty of ordering their troops to open fire on protestors during the 1989 uprising. Both have said they will appeal.

And a group of legislators are still trying to make public hundreds of thousands of files kept by the secret police on the population.

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