More protests planned as blame traded over Albania deaths

Berisha accused the socialist opposition of wanting "a Tunisian-style scenario for Albania" by staging a coup to seize power by force.

More protests planned as blame traded over Albania deaths

Albania's prime minister and the opposition blamed each other on Saturday for the deaths of three people in this week's anti-government protest, with each side promising new rallies in an escalating political row.

Albania has been in political deadlock since its last elections. The opposition refused to recognise the results, blocking legislation and reforms in parliament.

Since the collapse of the hardline communist regime in 1991, elections in the country have often been marred by violence and allegations of fraud. The current impasse is the longest political crisis the country has faced.

"Violence"

Prime Minister Sali Berisha accused the socialist opposition of wanting "a Tunisian-style scenario for Albania" by staging a coup to seize power by force.

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets for an anti-government protest called by the socialist opposition on Friday. The demonstration ended with violent clashes between protesters and the police and three people were killed.

Longtime Tunisian leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was ousted in mid-January amid street protests and fled to Saudi Arabia.

On Friday, opposition supporters staged a demonstration in central Tirana, pelting Berisha's office building with sticks and stones.

The clashes in Albania Friday marked the first time opposition protests had ended in violence since a political crisis erupted here after disputed 2009 general elections.

"I call on Albanians to gather Wednesday in Tirana to protest against the violence, it will be a big demonstration against violence", Berisha told a press conference.

"More protests"

Three civilians died in the confrontation, one of a gunshot wound to the head and the two others with close-range shots to the chest, in the worst violence in the country.

As mourners held the first funeral on Saturday, the leader of the Socialist Party, Tirana Mayor Edi Rama, blamed Berisha's government for the deaths and promised to stage more protests.

"We will continue our protests and demonstrations, without violence, peacefully, wisely, with the unstoppable power of the people's resistance," Rama said.

It also remained unclear who had shot the demonstrators, but Berisha earlier said they had been killed by weapons that police and the army "do not use" and blamed the protest's organisers for the violence.

The opposition said the victims were shot by soldiers as they tried to enter government buildings.

The Albanian prosecutor's office announced Saturday that it has issued at least six arrest warrants for people suspected of playing a role in the deaths but would give no further details.

"Six arrest warrants were issued on Saturday afternoon by the prosecution but as long as they have not been carried out by the police we cannot confirm the names nor the functions of the people," prosecution spokesman Plator Nesturi said.

According to prosecution sources the warrants were issued for "six soldiers of the republican guard who will be investigated for the shooting death of at least three people".

In a joint statement, the Tirana missions of the EU, United States and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) called for a compromise.

"There is one hard truth about yesterday that is important for everyone to understand. There were no winners. There were only losers," U.S. Ambassador Alexander Arvizu told a news conference. "This was a dramatic setback, and from which the country needs to recover."



Agencies

Last Mod: 23 Ocak 2011, 11:25
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