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U.S. orders nonessential workers out of Albania

Greek dignitaries to join talks

March 12, 1997
Web posted at: 9:33 p.m. EST (0233 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The United States is ordering most of its employees to leave Albania, and other U.S. citizens are being urged to leave as civil unrest spreads, the State Department announced Wednesday.

At least 160 U.S. employees and their dependents will be flown out of the Balkan nation, agency spokesman Nicholas Burns said. Only the ambassador, Marisa Lino, and a staff of 17 will remain.

The employees and their dependents will be evacuated by commercial airlines and charter aircraft, Burns said. The U.S. military will not be involved.

There are about 2,000 private U.S. citizens in Albania, Burns said. They were being advised to leave the country as soon as possible. Italy, France and Britain announced similar measures for their citizens in Albania.

Greek officials to meet with Berisha

Burns said the United States was very concerned about the situation.

"The call by Albania's political parties for a cease-fire and amnesty at this point remains unanswered by the insurgents in the country in the south and in the north," he said.

The unrest began in January after the collapse of pyramid investment schemes in which nearly every Albanian family lost money. Protesters quickly focused their anger on President Sali Berisha, claiming he sanctioned the pyramid scheme organizers in exchange for kickbacks.

In an effort to calm the revolt, Berisha agreed to set up an interim government and promised that new elections would be held by June.

Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis said Wednesday he was sending his foreign minister to Albania to help defuse the violence gripping its northern neighbor. There is a large Greek minority in southern Albania.

Theodoros Pangalos and Deputy Foreign Minister Yannos Kranidiotis will fly to Tirana Friday to meet with Berisha, other government officials and opposition leaders, Simitis said.

He said Kranidiotis would contact representatives of Albanian rebels controlling most southern towns and talk to them in an effort to end the conflict. Earlier Wednesday, Greek officials said the rebels should be included in all-party talks in Tirana.

State Department Correspondent Steve Hurst and Reuters contributed to this report.

 
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