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Albania: Police Move Against Protesters

Vlore, Albania; 5 February 1997 (RFE/RL) - Demonstrators and riot police in the southern Albanian port of Vlore clashed today in the latest protest spawned by the collapse of the country's get-rich-quick investment schemes. It was the first report of a violent clash since widespread rioting less than two weeks ago.

Western news agencies report that at least one protester was seriously injured after police moved against a crowd of several thousand. The reports say police fired into the air and used water cannon.

Demonstrators earlier had called for the ouster of President Sali Berisha. The opposition says his ruling Democratic Party benefitted from the funds, a claim he has denied.

The demonstration in Vlore followed the collapse of the Gjallica investment fund based there. The president of the fund went on television yesterday, saying it had no money but that investors would receive the value of its property holdings. Press reports say those holdings only cover about 10 percent of the estimated $300 million invested.

The country's get-rich-quick schemes -- which promised huge returns -- began collapsing last month. Observers say the collapse of the schemes was inevitable as the number of new investors declined.

A state-run bank has begun making partial refunds, using assets of two failed schemes frozen by the government. Refunds were reported proceeding today in Tirana and elsewhere.