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Albanian Telegraphic Agency (ATA), 97-03-02

Albanian Telegraphic Agency Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Albanian Telegraphic Agency (ATA) Home Page at <http://www.telpress.it/ata>

Albanian Telegraphic Agency

CONTENTS

  • [01] ARMED BANDS CAUSE TERROR IN SARANDE
  • [02] UNCONTROLLED TERROR IN SOUTHERN ALBANIA
  • [03] VLORE STUDENTS ISSUE ULTIMATUM
  • [04] I AM THE ONLY CITIZEN NOT ENJOYING LIBERTY OVER THE LAST YEARS - Meksi
  • [05] PRESS REVIEW
  • [06] FORUM FOR DEMOCRACY HOLDS ROUND TABLE
  • [07] ARMY UNIT OF LEVAN IN FIER AND DELVINE TOWN ATTACKED
  • [08] TERROR CONTINUES IN SARANDE
  • [09] Albania's Berisha under pressure to yield more By Paul Holmes
  • [10] ALBANIAN PRESIDENT MEETS AMBASSADORS OF EU COUNTRIES
  • [11] Unrest spreads in Albania despite PM's removal (Adds details, quotes, Berisha's villa looted in Vlore)
  • [12] Pressure mounts on Berisha in riot-hit Albania (Updates with Sarande unrest, Vlore ultimatum) By Steve Pagani
  • [13] Albania opposition deny ultimatum threat
  • [14] ALBANIA/ITALY: ALBANIA A PROBLEM FOR ALL EUROPE, DINI SAYS
  • [15] THE EXTRAORDINARY SESSION OF ALBANIAN PARLIAMENT STARTS
  • [16] REVOLT IN THE JAIL OF SHEN KOLL IN LEZHE
  • [17] ALBANIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES INTRODUCTION OF STATE OF EMERGENCY
  • [18] MESSAGE OF PRESIDENT SALI BERISHA TO ALBANIAN PEOPLE
  • [19] LAW FOR MERGING SHIK WITH INTERIOR MINISTRY COMES INTO FORCE
  • [20] BRITISH REPORTER TRIES TO ENTER ALBANIAN PARLIAMENT THROUGH FORCE
  • [21] APPEAL OF WOMEN DEPUTIES
  • [22] ALBANIAN PRESIDENT MEETS AMBASSADORS OF EU COUNTRIES
  • [23] STATEMENT OF ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT

  • [01] ARMED BANDS CAUSE TERROR IN SARANDE

    SARANDE, MARCH 2 (ATA)-Bands entered the Sarande town, Southern Albania, yesterday at about 19:30, provoked the police and later began to attack all state institutions in the town.

    At the beginning the band was said to have come from Vlore, but this is not yet confirmed.

    The band attacked the building of the National Information Service (SHIK), the port, broke into the prison and released the prisoners, broke into the Savings Bank, attacked the police station, seizing 400 weapons, seized the motorboats of the private owners that were in the port and set them ablaze, and broke into the foreign currency agency in the Sarande port.

    The terror has been going on during the night until today at 7.00 a.m.. Meanwhile the town's library has well been set to fire. s.sh/eva/lm/E

    Albanian Telegraphic Agency

    [02] UNCONTROLLED TERROR IN SOUTHERN ALBANIA

    SARANDE, MARCH 2 9ATA)- A big prison was broken into yesterday evening in the Sarande town. Around 250 prisoners were serving sentence here as assassins.

    The terror has also been going on at unprecedented rates in Vlore, with armed bands breaking into the affiliates of the Savings Bank and the National Commercial Bank.

    Many Vlore citizens are leaving their town.

    The Meksi government, under the pressure of the opposition, presented his resignation.

    Despite the very tense situation, the opposition has called for demonstrations in Tirana. sh/kled/lm/e

    Albanian Telegraphic Agency

    [03] VLORE STUDENTS ISSUE ULTIMATUM

    TIRANA, MARCH 2 (ATA)- One of the spokesman of the Vlore students' hunger strike, asked on the telephone whether there was something new from the students' strike, said : "We have issued an ultimatum, through which ask the President of the Republic to meet until 17:00 today all the demands of the Vlore students' petition. Otherwise, until 20.00 the armed forces from Vlore will come to attack Tirana".lm/sh/

    Albanian Telegraphic Agency

    [04] I AM THE ONLY CITIZEN NOT ENJOYING LIBERTY OVER THE LAST YEARS - Meksi

    TIRANA, MARCH 2 (ATA)- Albanian Prime Minister Aleksander Meksi has said that he is the only citizen over the last years not to enjoy liberty.

    "I lived under Enver Hoxha's dictatorship for 52 years and six years in such posts which have not allowed me to feel myself a free citizen," said Meksi in an interview with Gazeta Shqiptare, shortly after he presented the resignation of his cabinet to President Berisha.

    Asked whether the government would renounce the indictment raised against the Vlore hunger strike, Meksi said that "this belongs to the next government".

    Asked whether he was responsible for all the latest events in Vlore, as well as other towns, and why he did not resign earlier, Meksi said that :"The papers have the moral responsibility both for the loan-taking phenomenon, its encouragement, and for encouraging violence in Albania".

    "I feel no responsibility in the sense that if we quitted, the situation would calm down. They had nothing to do either with Aleksander Meksi or with the government," said Meksi regarding the responsibility for the latest events.

    "I have said I have my own opinions of the issues. This does not mean that the opinions may be scandalous or protesting," said Meksi regarding his statement in an interview, according to which, when he would express his own options when quitting the government.

    Asked what hindered them as a government from taking measures earlier to block the loan-taking phenomenon, Meksi said that: "We were inquiring into the dimensions of the phenomenon and secondly, even when the government started to tackle this problem, the protests had assumed extraordinary proportions". "I have been against loan-taking", Meksi told the paper.

    "If violence is employed like in Tirana today through vehicles with district number plates, if people are forced out of work and school to disturb tranquility, be sure that the catastrophe is near," said Meksi at the end of his interview with Gazeta Shqiptare. kled/lm/e

    Albanian Telegraphic Agency

    [05] PRESS REVIEW

    TIRANA, MARCH 2 (ATA)- Today's Rilindja Demokratike says that the "Meksi government resigns". "President Berisha accepted the resignation of the Meksi government and asked him to stay in this post until the nomination of the new Prime Minister following consultations with other parties," the paper says.

    Under the headline:"Terrorist bands of the Socialist Party commit massacre in the Vlore SHIK," the paper carries the article:"Three killed, three burned and three massacred".

    Under the headline "Left opposition chiefs also ask bloodshed in the Capital," the paper carries the article "With arms and stones to topple the state".

    "Vefa continues to operate the creditor's contracts," the paper says underlining that during this week some $35 have been distributed.

    "After Vlore is killed and the whole Albania destroyed : Berisha sells Meksi", says Zeri i Popullit. The solution proposed by the president runs contrary to the all-peoples demands," the paper says.

    "The Forum for Democracy reacts after Meksi's resignation," says the paper under the title "New Government, out of the DP dictate". Vlore declares mourning until March 5, 1997", the paper says under the title:"Shots and tears, protests and revolts".

    "Berisha should forget the fresh term," is the title of the editorial of the newspaper Republika. "Albania yesterday was closer than ever to the civil war," the paper says. "Hegemony of arms continues in Vlore. Blue uniforms lay down their arms. Tirana towards the great overthrow. Kakavija blocked", says the paper.

    Under the headline: "The terrorist bands cause bloodshed in Vlore", Rilindja carries the article "Nine killed, six of them are SHIK officers". The paper says that "The Meksi government resigns". Under the title:""Blood and anarchy in Vlore", the paper covers the foreign press about the events taking place in Vlore due to the terrorist bands.

    Albania reports on the situation created in Vlore by the terrorist bands. It says that terrorism sweeps Vlore". Albania entitled its editorial: "Criminals, Vlore and the Albanian state". The paper reports on yesterday's rally in Tirana organised by the Forum for Democracy saying that "The left opposition leaders want blood in the capital".

    Dita Informacion cites the Vlore students as saying: "We do not come out of the strike without Berisha's resignation". The paper reports on the situation in Vlore under the title:"The city in which automatic weapons dominate".

    Koha Jone reports on the Meksi government's resignation and says:"Another DP government is a demagogy and fraudulence to gain time", As regards the Vlore events the paper says:"Eyewitnesses provide testimony which involve SHIK as scenarists of the Vlore events".

    Gazeta Shqiptare carries an interview with Prime Minister Meksi under the title:"Meksi:I have been against loan-taking". The paper carries a communique of the U.S. ambassadress in Tirana on the situation in Albania under the title :"Democracy does not come through violence and extremism". kled/eva/lm/e

    Albanian Telegraphic Agency

    [06] FORUM FOR DEMOCRACY HOLDS ROUND TABLE

    TIRANA, MARCH 2 9ATA)- By A. Frasheri, The Forum for Democracy held a round table with the participation of some 40 political parties at "Europa Park" hotel in Tirana today at 11:00. But no conclusion was reached due to the confusion created by participation.

    As regards the participation of the parties in this table, the RP leaders Sabri Godo, said that "There should be a criterion in selecting the parties. He also stressed the indispensability of the DP participation in this table, as well.

    The Democratic Party was present in today's round table but withdrew to discuss the problem in its own structures and come back on the same day at 16:00.

    The parties today only discussed which would be the political forces to take part in this round table but they have not yet agreed to this, because of different opinions.

    Godo thought of a round table of the parties which have won over one per cent in the elections and have advisors in the district municipal councils.

    After the meeting Godo told reporters that "The government's resignation was a step ahead towards the solution of the problem" and reiterated his view "of drafting a constitution in a brief time, a new electoral law and fresh elections between September-October".

    He expressed himself against a technocrat government, as he said "it is completely baseless". "A government of various forces will not be able to apply its decisions because the DP has won a sweeping victory in the local government elections," said Godo adding "so, its will take decisions only for itself". s.sh/kled/lm/sh/

    Albanian Telegraphic Agency

    [07] ARMY UNIT OF LEVAN IN FIER AND DELVINE TOWN ATTACKED

    TIRANA, MARCH 2 (ATA)- According to an unconfirmed source armed groups from Vlore have moved on Fier and broken into the army garrisons, seizing all the arms.

    Also, armed groups are said to have rushed the Delvine town centre, setting ablaze the Police Commissariat, the town-hall, the Savings Bank, looting all the money found there. lm

    Albanian Telegraphic Agency

    [08] TERROR CONTINUES IN SARANDE

    TIRANA, MARCH 1 (ATA)- In the meantime, at 15:30, the INSIG, the Social Insurances Offices, have also been stormed and burned.

    The Navy unit is very much likely to have been attacked as gunshots are being heard in this zone. The special army unit, three kms from Sarande, has been attacked and arms have been seized. The Democratic Party offices have been torched and five police trucks and cars have been set on fire.

    Bread is finished in the town. There are some 15 "Benz" cars, with 3-4 terrorists with "Kallashnikov" armed terrorists, who since yesterday have been terrorizing the Sarande town and its suburbs.

    A citizen, asked about the situation and the students' hunger strike said: "We do not understand the meaning of the hunger strike and this terror now after the government resigned".

    The psychosis of terror has been prevailing for 24 hours in Sarande, but what is more, the Sarande inhabitants today fear the night. s.sh/lm

    Albanian Telegraphic Agency

    [09] Albania's Berisha under pressure to yield more By Paul Holmes

    TIRANA, March 2 (Reuter) - Albania's President Sali Berisha ditched his prime minister in response to widespread and sometimes violent popular protests but opposition parties and demonstrators said he must do more.

    "Sali, it's your turn now," shouted one student on hunger strike in the southern port of Vlore after Berisha announced on state television that Prime Minister Aleksander Meksi's right-wing government was resigning.

    The main opposition Socialists, successors to the communists who ruled Albania with Stalinist rigour until 1990, also reacted coolly to Berisha's move.

    They disputed his position that his Democratic Party could form a new government after other forces had been consulted.

    "We consider the only way to get Albania out of deep crisis is the formation of a technocrat government which rules the country until early elections," one of the Socialist Party leaders, Namik Dokle, told Reuters.

    "Berisha has already lost credibility among Albanians, who have called on him to quit, too" Dokle said.

    Berisha, whose party holds almost all the seats in parliament and is set for re-election there on Monday, made his surprise concession after the most ferocious bout of violence in Europe's poorest state since 40 people died in food riots in 1991.

    Up to nine people were reported killed in an exchange of gunfire between residents and the Balkan country's Shik secret police during a night of bloody anarchy in Vlore.

    Hospital sources in the town, a hotbed of anti-government protest since shady pyramid savings schemes failed in January, said a 10th person was killed by a shot fired in the air.

    In Tirana, at least 10 people were injured in clashes between riot police and stone-throwing demonstrators, while villagers threw up barricades at several points along the road between the capital and Vlore.

    Thousands of Albanians lost their meagre life savings in the collapse of the investment funds. Many of them believe, despite vehement denials by Berisha and Meksi, that the funds helped to finance the Democrats' 1996 election campaign.

    At the university in Vlore, where one of the biggest funds was based, students on hunger strike for 10 days toasted Meksi's resignation in sparkling wine and danced the macarena.

    But they said investors in the Gjallica fund must be re-imbursed for their losses.

    "We can assume we will quit the strike tomorrow (Sunday) if all political forces agree to repay Gjallica's debts," said student Arben Rama. "If they fail to fulfill our main condition, then we will push ahead with our demands."

    Students on hunger strike in the southern town of Gjirokaster were also unimpressed by Meksi's removal.

    "We are continuing our hunger strike until all our demands are met. The resignation is a facade," said one of the student leaders, Shkelqim Mecoriapaz.

    Meksi's government won re-election last year in controversial polls boycotted by the main opposition parties, which accused the Democrats of intimidation, widespread irregularities and ballot stuffing.

    The Socialists have so far refused to take part in parliament, where Berisha's party holds 122 of the 140 seats.

    REUTER

    Albanian unrest spreads to new town -state agency

    TIRANA, March 2 (Reuter) - Rioters attacked Albanian police and seized their weapons in the southern town of Sarande in an overnight orgy of burning and looting, the state-run ATA agency said on Sunday.

    The report, which could not be independently confirmed, said the rioters had stormed the local jail and freed its prisoners, broken into a savings bank and set fire to the town's library. It made no mention of deaths or injuries.

    ATA said protesters seized about 400 weapons in an attack on the police station in Sarande, a small port facing the Greek island of Corfu. Several boats in the harbour had been set ablaze, ATA said, adding that the rioters were from out of town.

    The reported unrest was the latest to hit impoverished Albania in two months of spiralling disorder in the tiny Balkan state, many of whose citizens have been ruined by the collapse of shady pyramid investment schemes.

    President Sali Berisha, facing the deepest crisis of his rule, responded on Saturday by ditching his right-wing Democratic Party's government led by Prime Minister Aleksander Meksi.

    In the southern town of Vlore, scene of the worst unrest, some 40 university students on the 11th day of a hunger strike said on Sunday that Meksi's removal was not enough and vowed to continue their protest.

    Albanian Telegraphic Agency

    [10] ALBANIAN PRESIDENT MEETS AMBASSADORS OF EU COUNTRIES

    TIRANA, MARCH 2 (ATA) - Press and information office near Albanian President reports that Albanian President Sali Berisha met with the ambassadors of the European Union countries and informed them on his efforts to solve the crisis by democratic and political means, on the refusal of the Socialist Party to meet with it again on Saturday, as it was decided in the first meeting held on the same day, to reach a political agreement.

    He also informed them on the situation in Vlore and Sarande, where the armed terrorists have plundered and burnt, as well as on the measures taken by the Albanian government to bring back normality and law. /a.ke/mt/k

    Albanian Telegraphic Agency

    [11] Unrest spreads in Albania despite PM's removal (Adds details, quotes, Berisha's villa looted in Vlore)

    TIRANA, March 2 (Reuter) - Rioters seized police weapons and freed prisoners from a jail in an orgy of looting and burning as Albania's violent unrest spread to the southern town of Sarande, the state-run ATA news agency said on Sunday.

    The report, which could not be independently confirmed, said disturbances raged for 12 hours overnight in the coastal town, which faces the Greek holiday island of Corfu.

    ATA, which made no mention of casualties, said the town's library and several boats in the harbour had been set ablaze and a savings bank looted.

    It said the protesters had come from out of town. They attacked police and grabbed 400 weapons before storming the jail and freeing 250 prisoners, the agency said.

    It did not identify the weapons taken, but Albanian police are normally issued with small arms.

    Witnesses in the southern town of Vlore, scene of the worst bloodshed, said anarchy also reigned there.

    President Sali Berisha's official villa in Vlore was among buildings looted by townsfolk, many of them armed after raids on police weapons stores. Witnesses said looters were carting off doors and windows and flowers uprooted from the villa's garden.

    Up to nine people were reported killed in Vlore on Friday night in a gunbattle between residents and Albania's Shik secret police.

    The speaker at a daily rally in the town said protesters were holding an unspecified number of Shik agents hostage.

    "Their story will be made known to public opinion here and abroad. We are not terrorists. Sali Berisha is a terrorist," the speaker told a crowd of about 5,000 people before appealing to protesters to refrain from violence and vandalism.

    The Sarande report, which made no mention of casualties, added to a sense of spiralling chaos in southern areas of impoverished Albania, where tens of thousands of people have lost life savings in bankrupt pyramid investment schemes.

    Berisha, grappling with the worst crisis of his rule, responded to popular and political pressure for action on Saturday by removing his deeply unpopular Prime Minister Aleksander Meksi.

    But a prominent opposition figure, Democratic Alliance party leader Neritan Ceka, called the government's removal a "cosmetic solution" and said Albania risked plunging into civil war unless Berisha gave more ground.

    "The people want the Democratic Party to resign from all power. It is responsible for the chaos in Albania," Ceka said Rejecting Berisha's announcement that the Democratic Party would lead a new government, Ceka said a technocrat cabinet should be formed to haul Albania out of its chaos.

    "We don't want to create a civil war in Albania," Ceka told Reuters.

    Berisha has blamed the trouble on left-wing instigators and rejected opposition claims that his party profited from the dubious get-rich-quick savings schemes.

    Some 40 university students on hunger strike in Vlore have become a beacon for anti-government resentment and popular demands for repayment by the state of some $2 billion lost in the crippled schemes.

    The students said on Sunday that they planned to continue their protest despite Meksi's removal.

    REUTER

    Buildings ablaze, gunshots in Albania town

    SARANDE, Albania, March 2 (Reuter) - Rioters torched buildings and looted shops and banks in the southern Adriatic town of Sarande in a fresh outbreak of unrest in Albania, a Reuter reporter said on Sunday.

    Gunshots could be heard throughout the town as thick, black smoke billowed from a police headquarters, library and bank in the town, which faces the Greek holiday island of Corfu. Residents said protesters had seized police weapons and about 100 convicts had broken out of jail.

    MORE

    Residents said all police had abandoned the town. Youths could be seen breaking into banks and shops. Six police vehicles were burning in the main square, the correspondent told Reuters in Tirana by telephone as gunshots could be heard cracking in the background.

    Townsfolk gathered papers and documents lying scattered on the road after the sacking of the police headquarters.

    A town hospital official said there were no casualties. "There are no injured because there were no clashes. The police have fled."

    "It all started yesterday after (President Sali) Berisha said the government was to resign," one resident called Markos said. "The demonstrators first stormed the police headquarters and took weapons and started shooting in the air...then they went on to break into shops and state banks," he said.

    REUTER

    Protest town gives Albania's Berisha ultimatum

    TIRANA, March 2 (Reuter) - Protesters in the southern town of Vlore issued an ultimatum to Albanian President Sali Berisha on Sunday, calling on him not to stand for re-election on Monday and to dissolve parliament.

    Protest organisers of local opposition parties said if Berisha did not respond by Sunday evening, Vlore residents and supporters in the region would move on Tirana, 150 km (90 miles) north of Vlore.

    "The ultimatum calls on Sali Berisha not to be re-elected president, the resignation of the government and the dissolution of parliament," the Vlore protest committee of the local opposition Forum for Democracy said in a statement issued to reporters in Vlore.

    "The president should set up a technocratic government with a mandate from all political forces. If the ultimatum is not met, then all Vlore and southern districts will march towards Tirana," it added.

    The ultimatum was to last eight hours but it was not immediately clear at what time it had been issued.

    Berisha bowed to popular and political pressure on Saturday by ditching Prime Minister Aleksander Meksi and his government but opposition parties and protesters have said he has not gone far enough.

    Albanian Telegraphic Agency

    [12] Pressure mounts on Berisha in riot-hit Albania (Updates with Sarande unrest, Vlore ultimatum) By Steve Pagani

    Gun-toting rioters roam southern Albanian town (Adds quotes, number of weapons seized) By Costas Paris

    SARANDE, Albania, March 2 (Reuter) - Rioters armed with stolen assault rifles torched buildings and looted shops and banks in the Adriatic town of Sarande on Sunday in unrest undiminished by the resignation of Albania's government.

    Demonstrators cruised the streets in cars, shooting into the air with Kalashnikovs looted when they stormed a police headquarters and put officers to flight.

    Thick, black smoke billowed from the building and from the library and a bank in the southern coastal town, a short ferry ride from the Greek holiday island of Corfu.

    Residents said about 100 convicts had broken out of jail. Youths could be seen breaking into banks and shops and six police vehicles burned in the main square.

    "There are no injured because there were no clashes. The police have fled," an official at Sarande's hospital said.

    The army barracks on the edge of the town, about a third of whose 20, 000 residents are ethnic Greeks, was also deserted.

    "Our commanding officers have fled. We don't know what to do. People stole about 400 Kalashnikovs from police headquarters. I'll try to make my way back to Tirana where my home is," a lieutenant who gave his first name as Adrian said.

    One weeping woman, clutching her four-year-old daughter, said she planned to pack up and cross into Greece and a local member of parliament for the Greek minority, Thoma Mico, said he feared a mass exodus over the nearby border.

    "In Sarande you have 20-year-old kids shooting Kalashnikovs in the air. There is total anarchy," Mico told Reuters.

    The violence added to spiralling chaos in the south of impoverished Albania, where tens of thousands of people have lost life savings in bankrupt pyramid investment schemes.

    President Sali Berisha, blamed by many savers for their penury and grappling with the worst crisis of his rule, responded to pressure for action on Saturday by removing his deeply unpopular right-wing Prime Minister Aleksander Meksi.

    "It all started yesterday after Berisha said the government was to resign," one Sarande resident called Marko said.

    Opposition leaders in Tirana and residents in the tinderbox town of Vlore dismissed Meksi's removal as a cosmetic move that would not end the chaos in Albania, Europe's poorest state.

    Protest organisers in Vlore, scene of the worst bloodshed in two months of mushrooming disorder, demanded the dissolution of parliament and called on Berisha not to stand for re-election in a vote scheduled in the chamber on Monday.

    Pressing for the formation of a technocrat government and early elections, they said they would move on the capital, 150 km (90 miles) to the north, unless Berisha responded to their demands by Sunday evening.

    Berisha's official villa in Vlore was among buildings pillaged by residents, many of them armed after raids on police weapons stores. Witnesses said looters were carting off doors and windows and uprooting flowers from the villa's garden.

    Up to nine people were reported killed in Vlore on Friday night in a gunbattle between residents and Albania's Shik secret police.

    The speaker at a daily rally in the town said protesters were holding an unspecified number of Shik agents hostage.

    TIRANA, March 2 (Reuter) - Albania plunged into fresh chaos on Sunday as armed rioters went on a rampage in the Adriatic town of Sarande and protesters in the south warned they would move on Tirana unless the president dissolved parliament.

    Rioters seized weapons after sacking the Sarande police headquarters, then torched buildings and looted shops and banks in increasing anarchy in the south of the Balkan nation.

    Reuter correspondent Costas Paris saw thick, black smoke billow from the headquarters, a library and a bank in the town, a short ferry ride from the Greek holiday island of Corfu.

    Residents cruised the streets in cars, shooting into the air with looted Kalashnikov assault rifles. Sarande hospital officials said there were no casualties.

    "Our commanding officers have fled. We don't know what to do. People stole about 400 Kalashnikovs from police headquarters," an army lieutenant said.

    In Tirana, leaders of the opposition Forum for Democracy called for an urgent meeting with President Sali Berisha, facing his worst crisis since coming to power in 1992.

    Prominent opposition figure, Democratic Alliance leader Neritan Ceka, called the removal of Prime Minister Aleksander Meksi's government on Saturday a "cosmetic solution".

    He said Albania risked civil war unless Berisha gave more ground.

    While Sarande burned, protesters in the hotbed town of Vlore, 130 km (80 miles) further north, issued an ultimatum to Berisha, warning him their supporters would move on Tirana unless he made more political concessions.

    Unimpressed with the resignation of Meksi's government, protest organisers called on Berisha not to stand for re-election on Monday, to dissolve parliament and set up a government made up of people with no political affiliation.

    "The president should set up a technocratic government with a mandate from all political forces. If the ultimatum is not met, then all Vlore and southern districts will march towards Tirana," protest organisers of the local opposition Forum for Democracy said in a statement issued to reporters.

    The ultimatum from Vlore, 150 km (90 miles) south of Tirana, was to last eight hours but it was not immediately clear at what time it had been issued.

    Up to nine people were reported killed in a gun battle between between residents and the Shik secret police in a night of bloody anarchy in Vlore on Friday.

    Berisha announced Meksi was to quit following the bloodiest night of violence in the former Stalinist state, Europe's poorest, since 40 died in food riots in 1991. A father-of-two was the first victim of clashes in Vlore on February 10.

    The collapse of a string of risky, high-yield pyramid investment schemes in January unleashed a wave of unrest, mainly in the more prosperous south where thousands poured their meagre savings into locally- based funds.

    Students and high school pupils have also come out against the right- wing government, staging hunger strikes at universities in Vlore and Gjirokaster, near the Greek border.

    Authorities and residents in the northern town of Shkoder, including its mayor, have also expressed support for Vlore protesters.

    In Tirana, regular police restricted access to the central Skanderbeg Square but there were no signs of any trouble.

    Leaders of the Forum for Democracy, made up 11 opposition parties including the main Socialist Party, meeting in a Tirana hotel urged Berisha to see them later in the day and called on him to postpone the presidential election set for Monday.

    Berisha was certain to win the election in a parliamentary vote scheduled for 10 a.m. (0900 GMT) on Monday as his Democratic Party holds most of the seats in the chamber.

    Albanian Telegraphic Agency

    [13] Albania opposition deny ultimatum threat

    TIRANA, March 2 (Reuter) - Albania's opposition Forum for Democracy denied on Sunday that its branch in the southern town of Vlore had issued an ultimatum to President Sali Berisha and said it wanted a peaceful solution to the nation's crisis.

    "The Forum stresses once again that it is for a solution of the crisis through dialogue and distances itself from acts of violence and ulitmatum threats," a statement from the 11-party Forum for Democracy said.

    "The Forum for Democracy has asked for an urgent meeting with the president of the republic to take measures so the situation does not get out of control," the statement added.

    The main Socialist Party, a member of the Forum, denied the Vlore branch had issued the ultimatum that protesters from the south would move on Tirana if Berisha did not meet their demands.

    Reporters in Vlore were handed a statement by a protest committee in the town, which has witnessed the worst unrest in two months of disturbances in Albania.

    The statement also said it was issued in the name of the local Forum branch. It warned Berisha that protest supporters in the south would move on the capital if the president did not make more concessions.

    "This is not true. We are for a totally non-violent solution to this crisis," a Socialist Party spokesman said.

    "We categorically deny that any ultimatum was issued."

    The Forum said its demands to Berisha include the setting up of a technocrat government and preparations for an early and fair general election.

    Rioting in Albania's south, ultimatum denied (Updates with opposition denying ultimatum threat) By Steve Pagani

    TIRANA, March 2 (Reuter) - Albania plunged into fresh chaos on Sunday as armed rioters went on a rampage in the Adriatic town of Sarande and the opposition called for an urgent meeting with President Sali Berisha to find ways to end the crisis.

    Rioters seized weapons after sacking the Sarande police headquarters, then torched buildings and looted shops and banks in increasing anarchy in the south of the Balkan nation.

    Reuter correspondent Costas Paris saw thick, black smoke billow from the headquarters, a library and a bank in the town, a short ferry ride from the Greek holiday island of Corfu.

    Residents cruised the streets in cars, shooting into the air with looted Kalashnikov assault rifles. Sarande hospital officials said there were no casualties.

    "Our commanding officers have fled. We don't know what to do. People stole about 400 Kalashnikovs from police headquarters," an army lieutenant said.

    In Tirana, leaders of the opposition Forum for Democracy called for an urgent meeting with President Sali Berisha, who ditched the government of Prime Minister Aleksander Meksi on Saturday.

    A prominent opposition figure, Democratic Alliance leader Neritan Ceka, called the removal of Prime Minister Aleksander Meksi's government on Saturday a "cosmetic solution".

    He said Albania risked civil war unless Berisha gave more ground.

    Parliament, mainly consisting of Berisha's right-wing Democratic Party, was meeting in special session on Sunday to discuss the unrest.

    The 11-party Forum for Democracy denied its branch in the southern town of Vlore had issued an ultimatum to Berisha.

    Reporters in Vlore were handed a statement by a protest committee in the town, which has witnessed the worst unrest in two months of disturbances in Albania.

    The statement also said it was issued in the name of the local Forum branch. It warned Berisha if he did not meet their demands protest supporters from the south would move on Tirana.

    "This is not true. We are for a totally non-violent solution to this crisis," a Socialist Party spokesman said. "We categorically deny that any ultimatum was issued."

    Up to nine people were reported killed in a gun battle between residents and the Shik secret police in a night of bloody anarchy in Vlore on Friday.

    Meksi quit following the bloodiest night of violence in the former Stalinist state, Europe's poorest, since 40 died in food riots in 1991. A father-of-two was the first victim of clashes in Vlore on February 10.

    A spokesman for the Forum in Tirana said it wanted Berisha to dissolve parliament, set up a technocrat government and prepare for an early and fair general election.

    The collapse of a string of risky, high-yield pyramid investment schemes in January unleashed a wave of unrest, mainly in the more prosperous south where thousands poured their meagre savings into locally- based funds.

    Students and high school pupils have also come out against the right- wing government, staging hunger strikes at universities in Vlore and Gjirokaster, near the Greek border.

    Authorities and residents in the northern town of Shkoder, including its mayor, have also expressed support for Vlore protesters.

    The opposition Forum has also urged Berisha to postpone a presidential election set for Monday.

    Berisha was certain to win the election in a parliamentary vote scheduled for 10 a.m. (0900 GMT) on Monday as his Democratic Party holds 122 seats in the 140-member chamber.

    REUTER

    Albanian Telegraphic Agency

    [14] ALBANIA/ITALY: ALBANIA A PROBLEM FOR ALL EUROPE, DINI SAYS

    (ANSA) - Valenza, March 2 - Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini on Sunday said that the unstable situation in Albania, where the government has resigned and street violence continues to mount, has become a problem for all of Europe.

    Speaking on the sidelines of a trade fair here, Dini added ''it is an Italian problem, in particular, because of its past efforts to stabilize the situation there. Italy is the nation which gives the most to Albania in every way''.

    According to the Italian diplomatic chief, the first thing to do is to restore calm in Albanian and then ''all parties must sit around a table and we will work in this direction. In particular, we would like to see intervention by Europe and international financial organizations''.

    Turning his attention back to the problem of law and order in Albania, Foreign Minister Dini observed that ''we cannot maintain law and order... this is something local authorities must do, seeking to establish dialogue and not resorting to confrontation and violence. This is the direction we will work in''.

    ALBANIA/ITALY: ALBANIA A PROBLEM FOR... FIRST ADD

    (ANSA) - Vallenza, March 2 - Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini on Sunday said that he had asked the Dutch European Union presidency of foreign ministers to call a meeting on the problem in Albania.

    ''I asked that tomorrow or the next day, at the latest'' Dini told the press, ''a meeting be organized of political directors in order to evaluate the situation at that level''.

    Dini then reiterated that he wanted to activate international financial institutions ''and even the United States''.

    ''It is necessary'' the Italian diplomatic chief explained, ''that a plan for financial recovery be hammered out in the short term and there is the need for political action. On this latter point we must make an appeal to all forces in Albania, both in government and on the opposition, that they meet and initiate dialogue and respect democratic principals''.

    Foreign Minister Dini went on to express his hope that, as soon as a new government is formed in Albania, he can ''organize a meeting with their ministers to see concretely what their requests are and how we can help them''. (MORE).

    ALBANIA/ITALY: ALBANIA A PROBLEM FOR... FIRST ADD (2)

    Asked whether he was concerned over an eventual exodus of Albanians towards Italy's southeastern shores, Dini replied ''It is my hope that the acts of violence and the revolt which have taken place do not lead to further migrations. In any case, we must remain alert because we cannot accept illegal migration''.

    The sea between Italy and Albania is currently be patrolled by not only the Italian navy but also the Carabinieri and Finance Guard, which since the start of the year had taken into custody 900 immigrants and impounded 14 boats and 12 land vehicles. The Carabinieri, on their part, have deployed no less than 200 men, ten boats and two helicopters.

    Patrols were recently stepped up also after it was ascertained that not only was the sea route being used for illegal immigration by both Italian and Albanian organized crime syndicates, but also for the more lucrative smuggling of drugs and arms.

    Albanian Telegraphic Agency

    [15] THE EXTRAORDINARY SESSION OF ALBANIAN PARLIAMENT STARTS

    TIRANA, MARCH 2 (ATA) By Atlant Frasheri: Albanian Parliament convened Sunday at 17.00 in an extraordinary session to take immediate decisions for the grave situation created in the country.

    Speaker Arbnori said that the parliament will continue to be convened in order to face by law the furious violence which has burst out.

    At the beginning of the session, Arbnori proposed to the parliament to approve this order of the day: the approval of the law of the state of emergency; the approval of the law to introduce the state of emergency; the approval of law for the union of SHIK (National Information Service) with the Interior Ministry and charging them with the duty to crush the revolt. /mt/k

    Albanian Telegraphic Agency

    [16] REVOLT IN THE JAIL OF SHEN KOLL IN LEZHE

    LEZHE, MARCH 2 (ATA) By Zef Pergegea: On Sunday at about 13.30, common prisoners of the Shen Kolli jail in the Lezha district, northwestern Albania, have broken into a revolt.

    After they have taken hostage for several minutes the director of the jail, the events have precipitated and as a result of this four prisoners have been gravely injured with fire weapons.

    According to the director of the public health of the district, Paulin Gjoni, the injured were treated by the doctors in the hospital of Lezhe and then they were escorted by the staff of this hospital to the civil hospital of Tirana to undergo the surgical intervention.

    According to the sources of the police commissariat, the situation in the jail of Shen Kolli has turned to normal. /a.ke/kei/mt/k

    Albanian Telegraphic Agency

    [17] ALBANIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES INTRODUCTION OF STATE OF EMERGENCY

    TIRANA, MARCH 2 (ATA) - The Albanian Parliament approved in the extraordinary session of Sunday, at 17.30, the introduction of the state of emergency in the whole Albania right after the approval of the law "On the state of emergency".

    The Parliament also approved merging of the Interior Ministry with the National Information Service (NIS). /kei/mt/k

    Albanian Telegraphic Agency

    [18] MESSAGE OF PRESIDENT SALI BERISHA TO ALBANIAN PEOPLE

    TIRANA, MARCH 2 (ATA)- Through a TV message today to the Albanian people, the President of the Republic of Albania, Sali Berisha, said:

    "Through this message I want to inform the Albanian people, all Albanians wherever they are, the whole international public opinion that a communist armed rebellion organized by former Albanian communists and former Albanian secret police in cooperation with foreign intelligence agencies burst in Vlore and some nearby zones last night. The law, constitutional order, the citizens' lives, institutions and the country's territorial integrity have been violated, creating conditions which are leading Albania to a civil war.

    These terrorist groups, after burning and ruining state institutions in a number of cities, after terrorizing the population of Vlore, after torching and killing, have actually rushed towards southern towns to take over the power through the force of arms. The target of their attacks has been the innocent people, town-halls and police commissariats. Jails have been stormed and killers and ordinary criminals have been armed, banks have been ruined and hundreds of millions of leks have been looted, citizens' homes and shops have been rioted with the clear aim to terrorise the population, block and take up power through violence.

    The communist armed rebels, helped and financed by foreign intelligence agencies, have launched military operations to topple the power and establish their own rule all over the country. Their headquarters in Tirana and Vlore and in other cities have compiled the black lists and formulated the most ominous projects to definitely bury the Albanian democracy.

    In Vlore and several other zones it is not the law and the state that dominate but terrorism and red bandits. Nobody more than Albanians have suffered under the red dictatorship. The democratic aspirations of the overwhelming majority of the Albanians, irrespective of their political party affiliation, are undeniable. Three million Albanians want tranquility, law and order, and democracy.

    While treating the problems aroused by the collapse of pyramid schemes, I have declared and insisted in a political solution. I have made intensive efforts for dialogue. Yesterday I called and met with the main leaders of the SP and other political opposition parties. I discussed at length with the leaders of the Socialist Party, listened to their suggestions, on which there is a full documentation. They asked me, and I admitted with pleasure, to meet them in the afternoon, but unilaterally they annulled the meeting and in their today's press they wrote the contrary of what they said in my office yesterday.

    The people are waiting for solution. As president of this country, I promise them that we will make use of all means envisaged by the law to overwhelm the red terrorist rebellion and we will react more fiercely against all the criminal rebels who are violating Albania and its democracy.

    Leaders and members of the political parties! In these moments I appeal to you all to keep control, defend the democratic order, our aspirations and those of the Albanians in general. We must not forget that the communist dictatorship was our greatest calamity. Democracy belongs to all political forces respecting it. Let us all protect it from the red violence, from unprincipled terrorists and rebels who storm state institutions. Violence fights political solutions and brings about dictatorship. Let us all together be resolute to call a halt to them.

    Officers, military, police and SHIK officers, These days you are facing very difficult conditions and a sudden terrorist activity stirred up by the most extreme forces, by those forces who consciously are blocking and challenging the constitutional law and country's democracy.

    Citizens of Albania!

    In these difficult hours for Albanian democracy, I call on all of you, from Konispol to Vermosh, to support the democratic state which we have built and are building with so many sacrifices. Let us all be on the side of the government, army, police and institutions, in defence of the law, public order, democracy, and Albania. I am sure that Albania has a future. I am convinced that together we will win over those who, after ruining the country for 50 years, want to restore to a new adventure. They will very soon get to know the iron force, the complete punishment of the laws of this country.

    I appeal to the civilised world, the friendly countries in Europe and in the world to show their solidarity in defending the democracy in Albania. I guarantee them that the Albanians are totally determined to defend democracy and its values because despite the fact that Albanian democracy today is violated, the law and democracy in Albania will win. God bless Albania!" kled/eva/lm/xh

    Albanian Telegraphic Agency

    [19] LAW FOR MERGING SHIK WITH INTERIOR MINISTRY COMES INTO FORCE

    TIRANA, MARCH 2 (ATA) By Atlant Frasheri: The decision of Parliament for merging SHIK (National Information Service) with Interior Ministry came into force on March 2, 1997 at 17.40. The decision says: "The armed forces of the Interior Ministry and SHIK are charged by the Parliament to crush the armed terrorist gangs during the state of emergency and to establish the constitutional and public order.

    These forces which will be engaged to accomplish the above duty, will be led by general Bashkim Gazidede". /a.ke/kei/mt/k

    Albanian Telegraphic Agency

    [20] BRITISH REPORTER TRIES TO ENTER ALBANIAN PARLIAMENT THROUGH FORCE

    TIRANA, MARCH 2 (ATA) - The Press and Information Department of the Foreign Ministry today reports that Joanna Robertson, correspondent of BBC World Service and newspapers "The Guardian," "Observer" and "The Economist" tried to enter through force the Albanian Parliament today at 16.30.

    After the exchange of some replica, reporter Robertson tried to go in the Parliament violently. The incident was avoided with the intervention of service staff of the Albanian Parliament, who asked Robertson to show them the accreditation card authorizing her to follow the sessions of the Parliament. Reporter Robertson, who had no such authorization to enter the Albanian Parliament, tried to enter the Parliament through force even after explanations by the Parliament service staff.

    The press and information department appeals to foreign reporters and correspondents to observe the principles of information and the civic standards. ake/xh/k

    [21] APPEAL OF WOMEN DEPUTIES

    TIRANA, MARCH 2 (ATA) - The Albanian Parliament approved Sunday an appeal, proposed by the group of the women deputies, which was approved later by the whole Parliament.

    The appeal, read by deputy Natasha Shehu, says that the state of emergency imposed by the Albanian Parliament, is the only chance to save Albania.

    "Albania is experiencing the most difficult moments in its history. The violence started several days ago, led by the armed gangs, is assuming great anti-constitutional proportions. The Albanian Parliament calls on you, sons and daughters of this country, to distance yourself from violence and crime. Albania is not only ours, but belongs also to those who will come to life and live after us. Let us turn Albania, all together, into its best days. The crime is seeking blood. Let us try on behalf of our life more than ever", says the appeal of the women deputies. /s.sh/mt/k

    Albanian Telegraphic Agency

    [22] ALBANIAN PRESIDENT MEETS AMBASSADORS OF EU COUNTRIES

    TIRANA, MARCH 2 (ATA) - Press and information office near Albanian President reports that Albanian President Sali Berisha met with the ambassadors of the European Union friendly countries and informed them on his efforts to solve the crisis by democratic and political means, on the refusal of the Socialist Party to meet with it again on Saturday, as it was decided in the first meeting held on the same day, where, said the President, I told them I was ready to reach maximal political solutions, envisaged by our constitutional laws, and they precisely asked me to fix an appointment in the afternoon to reach a political agreement, but refused later to come in the meeting fixed by them.

    He also informed them on the situation in Vlore and Sarande, where the armed communist terrorists, helped and financed by foreign intelligence agencies, have plundered and torched. Berisha has also made known to them the measures taken by the Albanian government to bring back normality and law. /a.ke/mt/k

    Albanian Telegraphic Agency

    [23] STATEMENT OF ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT

    TIRANE, MARCH 2 (ATA) - Since yesterday, violence and terror are prevailing in some southern towns of Albania, which have often turned into a rebellion of terrorist gangs and groups of Albanian former communists and former secret police, which are risking the country's integrity and constitutional law.

    Armed terrorist groups have broken into arms stores, have torched public buildings, institutions and local administration. The terrorist groups, besides the city of Vlore which is under their complete control, are also controlling the city of Saranda, Himara, Delvina and have looted ammunition in the military base of Pashaliman (Orikum.)

    Albanian Government considers that its resignation declared yesterday is exploited by terrorist groups to realise an armed rebellion with the aim of causing a bloodshed which would inflict the country's national integrity and future. The communist rebellion organized by Albanian former communists and Albanian defunct secret police in cooperation with foreign espionage agencies, holding hostage the lives of the citizens and the constitutional law, has resorted to military acts to overthrow the institutions through violence and to come to power through violence.

    The Albanian Government appeals to citizens to support strongly the institutions and the constitutional law. Let us back up the constitutional law and Albanian democracy which is endangered today more than ever. xh/k


    From the Albanian Telegraphic Agency (ATA) Home Page at http://www.telpress.it/ata


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