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Albania: President Berisha Resigns

Tirana, 23 July 1997 (RFE/RL) - Albanian President Sali Berisha is reported to have resigned today, clearing the way for his Socialist opponents to try to bring an end to the turmoil gripping the Balkan nation. The announcement came just over an hour before a new Socialist-dominated parliament was set to convene. There is still no official confirmation from Berisha or his office.

Berisha made his resignation in a statement read over Albanian state radio.

Berisha has been widely expected to resign so that he coud take up a seat as a deputy for the opposition Democratic Party which suffered a resounding defeat in parliamentary elections late last month.

Those elections were called to end widespread anarchy which followed the collapse of several pyramid investment schemes earlier in the year.

Berisha's resignation clears the way for Fatos Nano and his Socialists to choose the president, as well as dominate the government.

Earlier today, Berisha's Democratic Party, which suffered a resounding defeat in the June 29 poll, said it will boycott the parliamentary session. The ex-Communist Socialists and their coalition allies control 117 seats in the 155-seat assembly, while the Democrats control 27 seats.

Berisha yesterday called Socialist Party leader Nano, who has served time in prison, morally unfit to be prime minister.

European Union foreign ministers yesterday called on Albania's political factions to do everything necessary to allow the formation of a new government with a popular mandate.

The parliamentary meeting comes amid fresh fears about Albania's security situation. A bomb blast in Tirana yesterday wrecked two cafes and injured at least one person. In the port city of Vlore, police said one man was killed in a two-hour gunbattle between rival gangs Monday night.