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Albania: Opposition Appeals To President For New Government

Tirana, 4 March 1997 (RFE/RL) - Albania's main opposition Socialist Party said it has appealed to President Sali Berisha to agree to a new broad-based government to help end violent unrest gripping the country. But one of the Socialist leaders, Pandeli Majko, said the party had gained "no sense of compromise" from Berisha at today's talks in Tirana.

The talks were the first since parliament declared a national state of emergency over the weekend to crack down on armed chaos in southern Albania.

Officials in Berisha's ruling Democratic Party, whose leader Tritan Shehu was also at the talks according to Majko, were not immediately available for comment.

The country reportedly remains tense on this, the second day of emergency rule, but there have been no reports of clashes between government forces and armed demonstrators.

An unconfirmed report on Albanian State television said a four-year-old girl was killed by gunfire today in the southern port of Vlore while she was playing outside her home. The report said three other children were wounded by explosives. Vlore has been the focus of the protests, following the collapse of get-rich-quick schemes in which thousands of Albanians lost their life savings.

Meanwhile, State Radio Tirana reports that the southern town of Gjirkaster, where tanks moved in during the night, is said returning to normal, as are several other Southern towns.

Earlier today, the secretary general of the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE) Niels Helveg Peterson, called for an international effort to halt the violence and unrest in Albania.

Petersen, who is also Denmark's foreign minister, told Danish radio the situation in Albania is truly disturbing and worsening.

British foreign secretary Malcolm Rifkind warned that stability in Albania cannot be restored by force alone. He said Albanian president Sali Berisha must work with the opposition to restore faith in the democratic process. Austrian foreign minister Wolfgang Schuessel noted that EU foreign ministers recently urged Albania to respect the basic principles of democracy. Schuessel regretted this appeal had not been heeded.

The European Commission in Brussels today urged Albania to fulfull its international obligations on democracy and human rights. Senior EU foreign ministry officials will meet Thursday to discuss a common response to the situation in Albania.