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Albania: Prime Minister Denies Interior Minister Has Fled


Tirana, 2 July 1997 (RFE/RL) - Albania's interim Socialist Prime Minister Bashkim Fino denies news reports that the country's interior minister has fled the country. News agencies have reported that Interior Minister Belul Celo fled to Greece after the first unofficial results from voting in Sunday's parliamentary elections indicated victory for the opposition Socialists. Several other top security officials were also reported to have fled.

Fino told a Tirana news conference today that Celo, a member of the rival Democratic party, plans to return to his office tomorrow after an unexplained absence.

Fino also told reporters he had rejected a proposal by Albanian President Sali Berisha to replace Celo with Berisha-loyalist Azem Hajdari. He said appointments must await the formation of a new government after the official vote results. A second round for seats not decided in the first round vote is scheduled for Sunday.

Berisha told reporters today that he would not remain in office indefinitely with a Socialist-led government. But he did not say if and when he would step down.

Meanwhile, several hundred supporters of Albania's self-proclaimed king gathered in central Tirana today to denounce referendum returns that show voters rejected restoration of the monarchy. The pretender to the throne, Leka, has claimed the returns were falsified.

The protesters, some of them armed, blocked traffic as they denounced the Socialist Party, apparent winners of Sunday's parlimentary elections held jointly with the referendum. Police stationed nearby did not intervene.

Protesters dispersed after an aide of Leka told them to hold daily rallies to demand revision of the referendum results. Leka said yesterday he had data showing a majority had backed the monarchy. Final official returns have not been made public.

Leka and his family fled Albania in 1939 ahead of an invasion by Italian Fascist troops when he was only days old.

Also today, OSCE mediator Franz Vranitzky called today for a large-scale international reconstruction plan for Albania.
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