Government officials said Thursday they will halt the adoption of children until new laws are enacted that would ban the thriving practice of child selling.

Hundreds of Americans have traveled to Romania to adopt children, and many more are trying to arrange adoptions now."The selling and buying of children has to stop," Foreign Ministry spokesman Traian Chebeleu told a news conference.

He said the Romanian Senate is expected next week to pass legislation that would set strict guidelines for the adoption of Romanian children by Westerners. The Chamber of Deputies, Parliament's lower house, passed the legislation last week.

Adoptions will be suspended beginning June 1 until the government's Committee for Adoptions establishes new procedures under the legislation, Chebeleu said.

Dr. Alexandra Zugravescu, the committee's chairwoman, said adoptions would not resume before September.

Authorities have been increasingly concerned that child selling is harming Romania's image abroad.

Nearly 7,000 Romanian children have been adopted since the December 1989 revolution that ousted Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, 1,709 of them by Americans, Zugravescu said. Most of the children had been abandoned, born as a result of Ceausescu's ban on birth control and abortion.

Prospective Western parents in Romania - including several Utahns - could not immediately be contacted for comment on the government's new policy.

Many prospective parents, despairing of finding young, healthy children in state institutions, spend months searching the countryside for the right child. Some fall prey to the many local "fixers" who have turned adoptions into easy money.

U.S. immigration authorities have refused visas to more than 20 Romanian children adopted by Americans under what the government considers dubious circumstances.