US urges Albanians not to incite vote violence

TIRANA, Sep 16, 2000 -- (Reuters) The United States urged Albanian parties on Friday to avoid inflammatory language that could incite violence before local elections on October 1.

The polls will be Albania's biggest political test since the Socialist Party ousted Sali Berisha's Democrats in 1997 in snap national elections that helped end months of anarchy caused by the collapse of pyramid investment schemes.

U.S. ambassador Joseph Limprecht said that Albania had an historic chance to make the election, one of many in the troubled Balkans this autumn, the most free, fair and peaceful in recent history.

"It is unacceptable for political parties or leaders to create an atmosphere that might put at risk the work of the OSCE or other monitoring organizations," Limprecht told a parliamentary committee.

The 54-nation Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) will monitor voting in the impoverished and often violent country. About half a million guns looted during the 1997 anarchy are still in private hands.

Limprecht urged voters to take advantage of an extension in the registration deadline to make sure they are on the list. The opposition has accused the government of manipulating the voter roll.

Separately, Arben Loka, executive director of the Society for Democratic Culture, said the use of aggressive language by some political leaders might discourage some voters.

But the campaign was more open than in 1997 because candidates have been able to travel freely across the country and take advantage of growth of private media outlets to spread their messages, he said.

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