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Albania: President Re-elected; Vows To Quell Unrest

Tirana, 3 March 1997 (RFE/RL) - Albanian president Sali Berisha was sworn in for a second five-year term today and immediately vowed to quell ongoing anti-government unrest. Parliament overwhelmingly re-elected Berisha -- the sole candidate -- and has imposed a state of emergency following rioting in southern towns that has claimed at least 13 lives.

Berisha pledged to restore stability and expressed confidence the present "rebellion" will be supressed. The session was attended by lower-level European Union diplomats only, instead of ambassadors.

During the unrest, armed bands have attacked weapons depots, seizing guns, and went on a rampage of burning and looting. Authorities have warned all those with weapons to surrender them this afternoon or risk being shot without warning. There's no word of anyone complying with the demand.

In addition to imposing censorship on press reports of what is happening, parliament has ordered partial mobilization of interior ministry troops and the army to restore order. It also has told foreigners to leave four southern districts to leave immediately.

The violence has been sparked by the collapse of high-risk investment schemes in which many Albanians lost their life savings. Britain today expressed deep concern at the violence and loss of life in Albania. It also said reported intimidation of journalists and attempts to control freedom of the media in Albania must stop.

Greek customs officials said today that only a limited number of Albanians had so far tried to flee across the border to escape violence sweeping their homeland.

An officer at the border post at Kakavia, the main crossing point, said 100 people and 30 vehicles had arrived so far -- all with valid visas.

Customs chief Andreas Tsaprazis told Reuters the border was open and operating normally. But he said Albanians appeared to be afraid to drive to the border because of armed bands roaming the southern region. Tsaprazis said he closed the customs office at Kakavia for six hours today as a precaution because lorries were arriving and he feared they might have armed groups inside.

Border police said the number of illegal refugees, who flee across a rugged mountain chain on foot, was unchanged in recent days, numbering some 10 to 100 people.