New Albanian premier begins talks on new government
March 12, 1997
Web posted at: 12:10 p.m. EST (1710 GMT)
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TIRANA, Albania (CNN) -- Albania's new prime minister on
Wednesday began talks on forming an interim government to
restore order in a country torn apart by an armed rebellion
that has moved northward from its stronghold in the south.
Fearing more violence, the Italian, French and British
embassies said they would send all non-essential embassy
personnel out of the country. A source with the U.S. Embassy
in Tirana said the United States was sending diplomats'
families out of Albania.
On Tuesday evening, beleaguered President
Sali Berisha handed
the post of prime minister to Bashkim Fino of the opposition
Socialist Party. Fino is to run an interim government until
new elections can be held.
Fino flew in from the rebel-held southern town of Gjirokastar
Tuesday night and opened talks on Wednesday with Berisha and
political party leaders. Fino is a former mayor of
In a call for reconciliation, the new premier said: "We will
aim for understanding throughout the country so that all
people embrace each other rather than confront each other
with arms and tanks."
"This government must speak to the people with understanding,
asking them to hand in their weapons, because nothing is ever
achieved by coercion," he told reporters before the meeting.
The appointment of a premier from the main opposition party,
and from the south of the country now almost totally in rebel
hands, was seen as a major concession by Berisha as he
struggles to restore order.
Until last weekend the right-wing Albanian leader, elected
in 1992 and re-elected in controversial circumstances earlier
this month, had refused all cooperation with the ex-communist
The appointment also was seen as a bid to bridge the
traditional gulf between the impoverished north, with its
closed mountain communities, and the relatively prosperous
south, with links to Greece and Italy. Berisha is from the
But as the meeting started, around 100 people denouncing
Berisha looted automatic weapons from an army depot near the
town of Elbasan, only 40 miles (55 kilometers) south of
Tirana, the closest the unrest has come to the capital since
it broke out last month.
Shouting "Down with Berisha," many in the crowd demanded the
return of money lost in the collapse of fraudulent
investment schemes, which provided the initial spark to the
Many Albanians blame the government for not warning people
away from the pyramid schemes, and some claim it profited
from the funds.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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