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Albania: Evacuations Continue; Opposition Leader Plans Peace Mission


Stuttgart, Germany; 17 March 1997 (RFE/RL) - The U.S. military continues today to evacuate foreigners from Albania, but the operation is drawing to a close, says a U.S. Army spokesman. Major Dave Daigle said the Army removed nearly 800 people from danger in recent days. Almost half of these were American citizens. The rest were of various nationalities.

Daigle said only small numbers of people were continuing to arrive at the evacuation point near the U.S. embassy in the capital Tirana.

Daigle said U.S. soldiers yesterday had also helped rescue some 65 people on board two boats experiencing trouble in the Adriatic.

In Athens, the Greek government today set up a crisis committee to review the situation in neighboring Albania and the possible influx of refugees.

In Tirana, the newly-amnestied leader of Albania's main opposition party says he will travel to the rebellious south in an effort to convince insurgents to turn in their weapons.

Fatos Nano, leader of the Socialist Party, told reporters he was on a mission of peace.

Earlier today, Nano called on President Sali Berisha to step down. He said a new caretaker government, which took office last week, could be more effective without Berisha at the helm.

Nano was among 51 people whom Berisha amnestied yesterday. Nano had been in jail since 1993.

Also today, the Defense Ministry called on thieves who stole radioactive tablets used for mine detection to turn them in. Defense Ministry spokesman Pandeli Ristani said the material is very dangerous because it emits beta rays.

A European Union delegation is scheduled to arrive in Tirana later today for talks with Berisha. After five days of turmoil, Tirana is reported to be returning back to normal. Most people went back to work and shops were open.

About 100 people have died in Albania in more than a month of unrest that began in the south with the collapse of high-risk investment schemes. Thousands of Albanians lost their life savings as a result of the collapse. They blame Berisha for allowing the schemes to operate and continue to demand his resignation.
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