March 24, 1997 in Nation/World

Albanians In Capital Rally For Peace, Unity Order Restored In Tirana; 11,000 Have Fled To Italy

Associated Press
 

More than 1,000 people demonstrated in the capital Sunday to press for an end to the unrest that has traumatized Albania since popular high-risk investment schemes began to unravel.

Demonstrators held small wooden sticks inscribed with the names of Albanian cities, and called on Albanians to remain united. They shouted: “South and north, Albania is one!”

Albania has been gripped by chaos since February, following the collapse of the financial schemes in which most Albanians lost money. Many blame the government for not warning people, and some claim it profited from the funds.

Tirana is one of the few cities where police have managed to restore order. The government is trying to extend its authority beyond the capital, and for the second day in a row residents rallied to support its efforts.

More than 11,000 Albanians have fled to Italy since the turmoil turned into armed insurrection earlier this month, after anti-government protesters in the south began raiding armories and barracks for weapons.

Five would-be refugees were missing Sunday after a speedboat ferrying them to a larger craft ran out of fuel and they jumped overboard. The boat was carrying 23 passengers across the Adriatic Sea.

Two boats carrying about 200 Albanians reached the Italian port of Brindisi overnight, as the exodus from the poor Balkan nation picked up again. Bad weather and the start of Italian naval patrols had caused a lull.

In Italy, Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini suggested that a naval blockade might be imposed to bar illegal immigration, the ANSA news agency reported. He also said that if necessary, Italy, in agreement with Tirana, should control Albania’s ports to keep a check on departures.

Albanian state media reported that more parts of the country were returning to normal, and police said Sunday that the port of Durres had resumed operations after more than a week.

© Copyright 1997 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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