'Last chance' for Moldova after mass protests: PM

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Moldovan Prime Minister Pavel Filip speaks during a press conference at Victoria Palace in Bucharest on January 26, 2016

Moldovan Prime Minister Pavel Filip speaks during a press conference at Victoria Palace in Bucharest on January 26, 2016 (AFP Photo/Daniel Mihailescu)

Bucharest (AFP) - Moldova's new Prime Minister Pavel Filip said Tuesday that his government faces a "last chance" to regain public trust as the country a battles deep political crisis, calling for calm from protesters demanding his resignation.

"The political class now has its last chance to restore Moldovans' and our international partners' trust," Filip said in an interview with BBC television.

On a visit to neighbouring Romania, Filip said the elite was responsible for a political crisis that has seen Moldova rocked by mass protests in recent weeks.

Some 40,000 people took to the streets last weekend to demand early elections just days after a new government was sworn in -- the third such administration to take office within a year.

Filip said he had no intention of resigning, telling the BBC that Moldova desperately needs stable government to avoid a "deep economic and social crisis".

He added that action would be taken against protesters who "cross a red line and become violent".

Moldova has been mired in crisis since April when the exposure of a $1-billion (910-million-euro) corruption scandal triggered huge protests and the arrest of former premier Vlad Filat.

The previous pro-EU government lost a vote of confidence in October and was dismissed, but since then, the parliament has been deadlocked over its replacement.

The country is torn between those who want it to join neighbouring Romania in the European Union and those who want closer relations with Moscow, its Soviet-era master.

The nomination on January 20 of a new government did little to calm the protests, with demonstrators trying to storm the parliament as the new administration was sworn in, prompting calls for calm from the EU.

Romanian Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos said during Filip's visit Tuesday that Bucharest would loan its neighbour 150 million euros ($163 million) on the condition that the government pushes through "real reforms".

"Romania is ready to support Moldova on its European track provided it makes a clear commitment to carry out real reform, and not just on paper," Ciolos said.

Bucharest had pledged the loan in October, but froze it in the midst of the political crisis.

Wedged between Ukraine and Romania and with a population of just 3.5 million, Moldova is one of Europe's poorest countries.

Although Romania expects to release a first 60-million-euro tranche of the loan, this will depend on the outcome of an upcoming visit by IMF officials, Ciolos said.

Filip pledged to push through the reforms aimed at stabilising Moldova's economy and fighting corruption.

"We will show by our actions that we are determined to implement the promised reforms," he said.