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Albanian PM meets rebels in south for first time

April 1, 1997
Web posted at: 2:50 p.m. EST (1950 GMT)

TIRANA, Albania (CNN) -- Albanian Prime Minister Bashkim Fino went to Albania's rebel-held south on Tuesday for the first time since insurgents seized control of the region last month. He told rebel leaders that the feared Shik secret police had been disbanded a day earlier.

Fino, who arrived by helicopter in the rebel-held stronghold of Gjirokastar, told reporters he was in the region to meet the "legal representatives of local power and public order" but quickly moved to discussions with rebels and elected officials alike.

During the discussions he said he and President Sali Berisha had accepted the resignations of top Shik officials Monday. Their resignation had been a main demand of the rebels who seized southern Albania in early March.

Albania has been swept by violence since January, when a number of fraudulent pyramid schemes collapsed, wiping out many Albanians' life savings. Anti-government protests evolved into a full-scale uprising against President Sali Berisha, who is blamed for not warning Albanians against the schemes.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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