CEOL
Albania condemns Kosovo violence as Albright praises Tirana reforms

WASHINGTON, Aug 24, 2000 -- (AFP) Albanian Prime Minister Ilir Meta on Wednesday condemned continuing violence in Kosovo, urging ethnic Albanians as well as Serbs in the troubled province to work together ahead of upcoming elections there.

"The Albanian government condemns these acts of violence," Meta told reporters at a joint news conference with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who praised Tirana's role in pursuing internal reforms and stability in the Balkans.

"We are very concerned with occasional acts of violence that happen in Kosovo," he said. "We are particularly concerned now on the eve of the local elections."

Those elections are due to take place in October and although not clearly linked to the polls, there has been an upsurge in violence in the province, some of which has targeted the Serb minority.

Meta allowed that ethnic Albanians were behind some of the violence, calling them "irresponsible and uninterested in the process of stabilizing and promoting democracy in Kosovo."

But Meta also took Serbs to task for attacks, saying the "ultimate inspiration" for their acts were the policies of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

Meta noted that Kosovo's ethnic Albanian community was now coming together as a solid block, and said Albanian political parties there were cooperating on a peaceful strategy for the election.

Albright praised Albania's role in overcoming its own problems as well as its efforts in the region.

"We've seen an awful lot of progress with Prime Minister Meta in the last 10 months," said Albright.

"The United States is pleased to work with him," Albright said of the 31-year-old prime minister, adding that she expected U.S. assistance to Albania to continue between the range of USD 30 to 40 million per year.

She lauded Tirana's moves to crack down on lawlessness and corruption, improve its judicial system and privatize state-run businesses.

In February Albright paid a brief visit to Tirana, where she received a hero's welcome for her advocacy of the NATO air campaign to end Milosevic's repression against Kosovo's ethnic Albanians.



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