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Albania's president agrees to call off military

Government strikes amnesty deal with opposition

March 6, 1997
Web posted at: 12:46 p.m. EST (1746 GMT)

TIRANA, Albania (CNN) -- President Sali Berisha , backed by Albania's opposition parties, agreed Thursday to suspend military activity against armed protesters in the south and to offer an amnesty to insurgents who surrendered weapons within two days.

The offer was made public in a statement after more than five hours of talks.

The statement said participants in the talks asked the Council of Defense, overseeing emergency measures introduced last weekend, "to order the suspension of offensive military operations in the zones where they had been planned, for 48 hours starting at 6 a.m. (0500 GMT) Friday."

Insurgents were to start handing in their arms at the same time and would be granted an amnesty if they had committed no crimes, the statement said.

More than 25 people have died in southern Albania in the latest wave of more than a month of violence. Insurgents took control of several towns in the region.

The government of Aleksandar Meksi resigned last week in a bid to quell the protests, which grew out of failed investment schemes in which nearly every Albanian family lost money.

Thursday's announcement from Berisha said a commission of experts including members of all political parties would be formed to expose the true nature of the fraudulent pyramid schemes.

Berisha was to start seeking a consensus on a replacement for Meksi.

Opposition parties, led by the successors to the Communist Party, have demanded creation of a coalition government of technocrats.

Meanwhile, international efforts to find a political solution to the crisis have intensified.

A Council of Europe delegation was in Tirana Thursday and Dutch Foreign Minister Hans van Mierlo, representing the European Union, was due to arrive Friday after talks in Rome and Athens.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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