Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

Calls for fresh protest in Albania

Relatives carry the coffin of Ziver Veizi during his funeral in southern Gjirokastra, Albania

In a further escalation of the political crisis in Albania, the opposition has called for a fresh protest next week, only two days after the governing Democratic Party plans a similar rally.

Opposition Socialist Party leader Edi Rama urged people to come to a peaceful demonstration on Friday afternoon, a week after three people died and more than 150 were injured in clashes with police at a rally against the government they accuse of deeply rooted corruption.

"That is an invitation for you, all those who want a one-way street toward an Albania in which everyone feels free and equal before the law," said Rama, speaking from Fier, 60 miles south of capital Tirana, where he took part in the funeral for one of the dead.

Prime Minister Sali Berisha's Democrats will hold a rally against violence on Wednesday.

The opposition also complains that police have not yet acted on arrest warrants issued on Saturday for six officers of the National Guard - army troops under Interior Ministry command who guard government institutions and senior officials.

The governing Democrats consider the warrants anti-constitutional and say Prosecutor General Ina Rama is part of a coup d'etat by the opposition seeking to take power by force.

Western ambassadors are meeting Albania's top leaders in an effort to mediate a compromise.

The US and the European Union have both appealed for calm, urging both sides to refrain from violence and political leaders to search for compromise.

Albania, one of Europe's poorest countries that for about half a century was ruled by xenophobic Communists who banned contact with the outside world until 1990, is now a Nato member and seeks to join the 27-nation EU.

But its still-weak administration, widespread corruption and the ever-squabbling politicians have often taken the tiny Balkan country of 3.2 million into chaos, similar to 1997 following the collapse of popular investment schemes.

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