Deputy Formin sacked for leaking to press AlbrightFeb 29, 2000
TIRANA - Prime Minister Ilir Meta sacked on Saturday his deputy foreign minister following the publication in the press of the secret log of the talks between Albanian top officials and visiting US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, last week.
Metas spokeswoman, Mesila Doda, said in a press release that the government had "dismissed Deputy Foreign Minister, Ben Blushi, for abuse of discipline." She did not elaborate.
But press reports on Sunday and Monday linked Blushis sacking with the publication during the weekend by two wide circulation publications, daily newspaper Koha Jone, and popular weekly Klan, of the classified talks between Albright and Meta and President Rexhep Meidani.
The cabinet held on Saturday an emergency meeting to discuss the issue, which was considered as damaging to confidential and close relations with the United States.
It is not clear yet whether the documents were classified.
Blushi denied all accusations, saying the dismissal "was an unfounded, absurd decision". He said he had not leaked the secret logs to the press, claiming instead that Minister Paskal Milo and the US relations department in the ministry could have accessed the minutes. He asked for a proper investigation into the affair.
He maintained the sacking had political connotations, implying he was victim of a struggle between two rival groupings in the ruling Socialist Party (SP), led by SP leader Fatos Nano and the Socialist Premier.
"This (sacking) is an excuse for a witch hunt within the SP, a witch hunt of a minority against the majority within the SP, a witch hunt by an anti-Nano club," said Blushi, who is member of the Socialist leadership.
The talks minutes contained criticism by Meta of SP leader Fatos Nano. Meta told Albright he was "concerned by several recent statements of Nano" against the government and its anti-corruption drive.
Nano has reportedly criticised the sacking and has demanded explanations by Meta to the SP leadership. Meta and Nano met for several hours on Sunday to discuss the dispute, but Meta has reportedly refused to take back the governments decision.
Blushi was Nanos spokesman when he was premier and party leader, before joining the Socialist Party. He has also been editor of Koha Jone, one of the papers that published the secret logs, before splitting to start the new short-lived daily Independent.
Logs Contain Unpublished Information
The minutes contain several issues that were not mentioned in statements from the leaders following intensive talks earlier this month between Albright and Albanias top officials.
Albright warned the latter of relations with neighbouring Macedonia, and suggested to them to curb illegal entries by Albanians into the neighbouring country. Macedonian border guards have been involved in several shooting incidents in the past few months with intruders from Albania, believed to be involved in the trafficking of arms and drugs.
"I would ask you to consider this problem (illegal crossings)," she was quoted as telling Meta, referring to complaints from the Macedonian president "on problems in the border with Albania."
"Whatever relations you have with Macedonia, it should not be forgotten that the stability of Macedonia is very important," Albright told president Meidani, according to the log of the secret talks published by Koha Jone.
Other unpublished remarks by Albright to Albanian officials concern Albanias relations with its northern neighbour, the Yugoslav Republic of Montenegro. According to the log, Albright welcomed closer relations between Albania and Montenegro but warned that "it was important to maintain cautious contacts in order not to provoke Belgrade."