Albania's opposition calls for fresh protest after deadly clash

08:44, January 24, 2011      

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Albania's opposition Socialist Party leader Edi Rama on Sunday called for a new protest to be held on Friday afternoon, an indication of continuous tensions in the country after a deadly clash.

Rama made the demand when attending the funeral of two victims of a Friday clash, which followed an anti-government protest outside Prime Minister Sali Berisha's office building and led to three deaths.

Meanwhile, the European Union (EU) and the United States were attempting to negotiate a solution between the Albanian government and the opposition.

Earlier, Albanian President Bamir Topi and the British, American and EU ambassadors to that country appealed for restoration of dialogue and normality in order not to damage any further prospects of the Balkan nation as it tries to be admitted as an EU member.

"We urge all parties to restore political dialogue, respect the institutions of the state and show maturity and balance because it is of vital importance for the present and European future of Albania," Topi said in a statement upon consulting with the ambassadors and sharing his concerns with them.

The president and the three ambassadors also highlighted the importance of cooperation between Albania's law enforcement bodies, a clear reference to the failure of police to execute six arrest warrants issued by prosecutors against main chiefs of the national guards on the charge of overstepping their authority that resulted in the deaths.

Key ministers and many foreign ambassadors were seen entering Berisha's office building on Sunday afternoon, which has also been surrounded by barbed wire since the Friday riot.

The prosecutor's office said the arrest warrants, issued early Saturday, hadn't yet been executed at midday on Sunday. Reports said lawmakers of Berisha's ruling Democratic Party condemned the move of the prosecutor's office, saying it had no ground to issue the arrest warrants.

On Friday, the opposition Socialist Party held the protest against alleged government corruption and election fraud by the Berisha government.

Around 60 persons were wounded in the following clash and over 100 others had been arrested.

Protesters pelted the prime minister's office building and the police lining before it with stones, sticks, umbrellas and whatever they could get. Police responded with tear gas, rubber bullets, stun grenades and water cannons to disperse them.

Three people died from gunshots in chaos. One was shot in the head, and the other two in the chests.

Video footage showed live bullets were fired from within the compound of the government building as police tried to push back protesters.

Tensions have remained high in the country, and both Berisha and Rama blamed each other for the deaths.

Berisha said the men had been killed by "bandits" within the protesters, while Rama accused Berisha of being the "political orchestrator" of the killings.

The opposition Socialist Party and the ruling coalition government have been at loggerheads since the 2009 general election, which the opposition claimed was rigged.

The opposition has been demanding the coalition government's resignation and early elections. Prime Minister Berisha rejected the demand.

Source: Xinhua

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