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Albania: Police Thwart Opposition Rally

Tirana, 12 February 1997 (RFE/RL) - Albanian police today thwarted an attempt by the opposition to hold an anti-government rally in the center of the capital, Tirana.

The opposition Forum for Democracy had called for a midday protest at the main Skanderbeg square to press demands for the government's resignation.

Correspondents say, however, two truckloads of police descended on the Forum for Democracy headquarters and prevented leaders from leaving the building. Hundreds of riot police were also reported throughout the city center.

In the port town of Vlore, scene of violent clashes in the past few days, authorities apparently moved to appease local residents by sacking a highly unpopular police chief. Hundreds of residents however still gathered in the streets of the town and tensions remained high.

The leadership of the ruling Democratic party of President Ali Berisha is gathering today in Tirana, apparently to discuss the situation.

The opposition demands the resignation of the government which protesters say has done little to protect people from failed get-rich quick schemes, through which thousands of Albanians lost their life savings. Meanwhile in Vienna, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) expressed deep concern over developments in Albania and called on all sides to refrain from violence and respect the rule of law.