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Antenna: News in English (PM), 98-09-15
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From: Antenna Radio <http://www.antenna.gr> - email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Last Updated: Tuesday, 15-Sep-98 22:07:23
 AlbaniaA day after what had the makings of an uprising in Tirana, the Albanian government has gone on the political offensive.
Socialist prime minister Fatos Nano told armed supporters of Democratic Party leader Sali Berisha that they had better lay down their weapons soon, or the police will disarm them.
Berisha questioned the validity of the national elections that removed him from power as soon as the votes were counted just over a year ago.
But Monday's violent occupation of government offices was the strongest challenge his supporters have yet made to the government.
Outside the offies of the Democratic Party in Tirana Tuesday, armed party supporters sat triumphally abreast three tanks they seized from government forces in Monday's clashes.
In all there were some 3 thousand supporters of party leader Sali Berisha outside the party headquarters.
But their militant rhetoric had clearly been toned down.
On Monday they had occupied and burnt government offices, looted and burnt shops in the capital.
But on Tuesday, as they found themselves surrounded by the police, they said they were simply protecting the party offices from the government forces.
The Democratic Party had originally called a rally at Skederbee Square in central Tirana; the rally was finally held at the party offices though. Only a peaceful march to the central square ensued.
Socialist prime minister Fatos Nano went on the offensive against Berisha's supporters Tuesday.
In a televised address he said he had no intention of heeding the Democratic Party ultimatum that he resign immediately.
And he warned: "Neither Sali Berisha nor anyone else should believe we'll wait long for the guns to be withdrawn from the Democratic Party offices and the tanks to be returned to the government forces".
Nano said there's no time for the abnormal situation to draw to a close. Order must be restored soon for the good of the Albanian people and the country.
The government's task, the prime minister added, is to take the country forward.
Observers say the fact that only three thousand Berisha's supporters showed up at the party offices for the rally and march Tuesday, was a sign that whatever the Democratic Party was trying to achieve had not found resonance with most Albanians.
But while the latest troulbes may be over, the damages remain from Monday's rioting, which followed on the heels of the shooting death of a top Democratic Party official - by the government, says Berisha.
In the worst cases of looting and torching, ethnic- Greek businessman Thodoros Lambiris saw his electrical appliances and department store - one of the city's biggest - emptied and burnt.
"Two hundred people raided the place", he says. "It's a disaster - there's noting left. People carried out TVs, washing machines, even shoes".
Not only did the police not intervene, he says, they, like the firemen brought in to extinguish the fire, took part in the looting.
"There are no police here", he laments. "Whatever we try to do, we have to do alone".
For ethnic Greeks, unrest is especially frightening: they fear it will bring pogroms.
Lambiris believes his store was destroyed because it was Greek-owned.
And at the Democratic Party rally in Tirana, anti- Greek slogans were shouted by Berisha's supporters.
 Greece-border securityIn response to the trouble in Albania, Greece is stepping up border security.
Already special forces and additional police units have been ordered to border posts.
The political unrest in Tirana was the signal for criminal elements in southern Albania to try to further their interests.
The ethnic-Greek prefect of Argyrokastro, Giannis Dakos, and his nephew, Spiros Xeas, were kidnapped and held for 90 thousand dollars ransom Tuesday. Thanks to the efforts of the Greek consulate, they were released safely later in the day.
But there was more criminal activity, as armed gangs set up roadblocks and robbed travellers in the southern part of the country.
An armed gang attacked the Albanian border post at the crossing point into Greece at Kakavia Tuesday. Approaching the post in stolen police cars, they demanded the release of three comrades being held by the Albanian authorities there.
A shootout ensued, the police emerging victorious.
But it's the kind of episode that hasattempt failed, but it is the kind of event that has the Greek authorities determined to take the ounce of prevention that will prevent any further troubles from spilling over into Greece.
Greece is also determined to protect Greek
interests in Albania: 15 Greek peacekeepers stationed in Albania have been sent to beef up the guard at the embassy in Tirana.
Greek defence minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos says the unrest in Tirana Sunday and Monday should not be allowed to move backward into chaos again.
Not only Greek, but many western officials are concerned about renewed upheaval in Albania, and the possibility of trouble there destabilising the wider region.
Of immediate concern to everyone is the possibility that the situation in Albania could spark further unrest in Kosovo, where militant ethnic- Albanians have been waging a campaign for independence from Serbia.
There is also fear that the trouble could destabilise the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, with a restive ethnic-Albanian population of its own.
Tsochatzopoulos believes that there is a connection between the militant secessionists in Kosovo and the rioting that rocked the Albanian capital of Tirana.
Many commentators say that supporters of former Albanian president Sali Berisha have been aiding and arming the Kosovo militants; and that Berisha's Democratic Party is now bringing arms and fighters back south to Albania for a showdown with the government of socialist prime minister Fatos Nano.
Tsochatzopoulos says a political solution must be found to the problems in both Albania and Kosovo.
 Papantoniou-1999 budgetThe government has made decisions designed to cut inflation - hopefully in half by the end of next year.
Finance minister Yiannos Papantoniou discussed the 1999 budget with his deputies, Nikos Christodoulakis and Giorgos Drys Tuesday.
Papantoniou says lower taxes on new cars and fuel will help pull inflation down.
And to keep a lid on the price index, the government is going to keep increases in utility charges to a minimum.
Getting inflation down also means a tight budget.
Public sector pay increases will be small - two per cent for the year, with inflation currently running at a five per cent clip. Inflation is at the centre of government attention because it must be lowered to 2.5 per cent by the end of 1999 to meet the requirements for Greek entry into the single European currency in 2001.
(c) ANT1 Radio 1998
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