Authorities express support Serbian opposition
President Rexhep Mejdani issued a public statement to Albanian and international opinion makers expressing support for Serbian opposition President-elect Vojislav Koštunica.
"The Milošević era is finished once and forever," he said in reference to the latest political events in Belgrade.
Prime Minister Ilir Meta held a press conference in his office, telling reporters his government supports the Serbian opposition in its quest for democracy.
"The Albanian government notes that Milošević's dictatorial regime, after burning and destroying former Yugoslavia for an entire decade, was trying to lead the Serbian people into further bloodshed," he said, adding that "the victory of the opposition in Serbia is the first step on the way to a new Belgrade."
"The Albanian Government underlines that the opposition forces in Belgrade must understand and know the true path toward liberty and democracy, ... tolerance and reconciliation among Serbs and the region's other peoples."
Local media has reported step-by-step on the latest political happenings in Belgrade. Independent analysts speaking of Vojislav Koštunica political career are underlining his nationalist leanings, and suggest he has much work to do if Yugoslavia is to transition from dictatorship to democracy.
Albanian media noted that Koštunica was, as a student, expelled from Belgrade University because of his objections to Josip Broz Tito's 1974 New Yugoslav Constitution, which gave modest autonomy to Vojvodina and Kosovo. Media also expressed concern about a recently published photo of Koštunica standing armed with a Kalashnikov assault rifle with "Tiger" paramilitary forces in Kosovo.
Local election results not yet official
Although the final results of the recent local elections have yet to be made official by the Central Election Commission (CEC), political party commissioners claim to know the results.
Sources in the ruling Socialist Party say their candidates won with more than the 50 percent plus one required by the electoral code, and noted that the Tirana municipality was won by their candidate, Edi Rama. Forty percent of the seats up for grabs will be contested in the runoff election, it said.
Prime Minister Ilir Meta, meanwhile, said that beyond "some known technical defects" in the voting process, the elections were free and fair and reaffirmed Albania's commitment to democracy. Meta's assessment was echoed a day later by international bodies that had overseen the 1 October contests, including the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Organization for Democratic Initiatives and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the Council of Europe (CofE).
Robert Frowick, US Special Envoy for Southeast Europe, was sent to Albania to observe the polls and elections process as a whole. Frowick, US Ambassador Joseph Limprecht and OSCE Ambassador Gert Ahrens followed the voting process in the northern city of Shkodra and in the southern municipality of Berat.
As their monitoring mission came to an end in Tirana, they lost no time in declaring that the whole electoral process had been free and fair despite a handful of technical defects.
Still, the Democratic Party claimed at the end of election day that the process had been manipulated by the government and its policies. The CEC, it said, had doctored the electoral lists by striking more than 800,000 voters, most of whom the party claimed were its supporters.
The DP held a General Council meeting to formulate its official reaction, and decided that it would not oppose the runoff elections, but did demand a later date for the second round of balloting, the replacement of CEC members and a voter list corrected to include the 800,000 citizens it alleges were struck in the first contest.
Italian foreign and interior officials visit
On Wednesday 5 October, Italian Vice-Secretary for Foreign Affairs Umberto Ranieri and Massimo Bruti, Vice-Secretary of the Interior, visited Tirana for talks with Prime Minister Meta and Foreign Minister Paskal Milo.
Milo and Meta expressed the nation's thanks for Italy's political and economic support, while Ranieri and Bruti expressed satisfaction with the latest free and democratic electoral process in Albania.
The Italian delegation was in town to sign a treaty of friendship and cooperation between the two nations.
Ranieri told Milo that, "Italy's support will be multidimensional as Albania travels along the road toward integration into Euroatlantic structures, especially to the opening of relations with a Stabilization and Association agreement with the European Community."
USAID financing in the offing
USAID has invited representatives and experts from the Albanian government to discuss technical details for financing numerous projects under the framework of the Stability Pact for Southeast Europe.
The move came after the government demanded support for the "nation of eagles as a bridge linking East and West."
Projects to be financed will focus on development and economic revival of the region, as well as on the establishment of more solid links between regional business and the international business community.
USAID is primarily funding an overhaul of customs information systems, and will also support the development of several Albanian agencies to support regional integration.
The American development agency is also to fund the restructuring of the Qafe Thane customs unit on the Albania-Macedonia borders and Qafe Morini unit on the Albania-Kosovo borders.
Seven Stars 2000
The Albanian Army company "Peace Observing," composed of 12 senior officers and 33 soldiers, participated in the multinational military exercise Seven Stars 2000 held from 17 to 30 September in Koren, Bulgaria. The exercise was not the first time the army participated in international exercises, and senior headquarters officials praised the "Peace Observing" company's work in Bulgaria.
Artur Nura, 7 October 2000
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