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Albania: Fear Spreads To Relatives Abroad

Munich, 13 March 1997 (RFE/RL) - Albanians in Tirana have told relatives in Germany they are increasingly frightened of what will happen if the conflict between the government and rebels is not quickly resolved.

In telephone conversations, they say their fears focus on what sort of power structure will emerge from the conflict. Many are also worried that food supplies may run out if the conflict is not settled, leading to looting of warehouses and rioting. Few people are said to be working, either in factories or on farms.

Currently, there does not appear to be a food shortage, at least not in Tirana or in the north of the country, where the fighting has only begun to spread. People in Tirana told their relatives in Germay that they were stockpiling food.

Albanians say there is concern that most rebels groups appear to be acting independently without central coordination. "Two or three groups, or even more, could reach an agreement with the new government or with the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) mission," one told a relative in Germany. "But there is no rebel organization to impose such a settlement on all the groups."

The special representative of the OSCE, Austria's former chancellor Franz Vranitzky, hopes to talk to the National Committee formed in Gjirokaster when he goes to Tirana, but the OSCE acknowledges it does not know the extent of the National Committee's authority over other groups.

The designated prime minister Bashkim Fino, a Socialist, was mayor of Gjirokaster from 1992-96. The OSCE hopes this will give the National Committee's actions a certain status, but there is no guarantee its hopes will be realized.

Several people said rumors are circulating in Tirana that some form of military government may emerge from the unrest. Some of these rumors suggest that a few generals might take over and rule as a junta, at least until new elections are held. There are other rumors that the former military chief of staff, General Kico Musttaqi, might return and take over.

Mustaqi was chief-of-staff under the last Communist ruler of Albania, Ramiz Alia. Mustaqi is believed to be now living somewhere in western Europe or in North America. Several officials who served under the former Communist government are living and working in North America.

Some people in Tirana disagree with the view that the rebels are uncoordinated. Some believe former Communists are taking control of the rebel movement through the Communist organization which once operated in every town and village. However, they acknowledge they have no evidence to support their fears.

Some Albanian academics have unofficially proposed an all-party government to run the country until stability returns. A proposal circulating in academic circles suggests that such an all-party government include, not only political groups in Albania itself, but also representatives of the Kosovo Albanians and the Macedonian Albanians. Some of them describe such a government as a "committee of national union," or a "Committee of National Salvation."

They argue that there is a precedent for such a crisis government in the national government that was formed in 1912, when Albania became independent (from Turkey). It was created in the port of Vlore, which is one of the centers of the current unrest.

The possibility of outside intervention, possibly from Italy, is also being widely discussed as a means of settling the unrest. New rumors swept through Tirana this morning that the leadership of the Democratic Party met last night to discuss asking for foreign intervention. According to these rumors, President Sali Berisha strongly opposed taking such action at this time.

According to these reports, the meeting was also attended by designated prime minister Bashkim Fino. Fino was reported to have renewed demands that the Socialists be allowed to name the Interior Minister, who is in charge of the police. The Socialists argue that the rebels would have no trust in an Interior Minister from Berisha's Democratic Party.