- Title: ALBANIA: TROUBLED PORT OF VLORE PREPARES FOR ELECTIONS
- Date: 25th June 1997
- Summary: VLORE, ALBANIA (JUNE 26, 1997) (RTV - ACCESS ALL) 1. LV OF PART OF THE TOWN 0.06 2. LV UNIDENTIFIED GUNMEN VIEWED FROM THE BOLOGNA HOTEL, TWO UNIDENTIFIED MEN ON GROUND, GUNMEN KICKS ONE OF THEM 0.14 3. LV UNIDENTIFIED MAN IN PINK SHIRT LED BY GUNMEN TO VAN 0.28 4. SLV MASKED GUNMEN STANDING BESIDE BUILDING 0.35 5. LV GUNMEN BY VAN WATCHING CONVOY OF INTERNATIONAL FORCE VEHICLES DRIVING INTO THE DISTANCE / SOUND OF GUNFIRE, GUNMEN RETURN FIRE 0.56 6. LV/CU WOUNDED MAN BEING CARRIED ALONG BEACH (2 SHOTS) 1.17 VLORE, ALBANIA (JUNE 26, 1997) (RTV (A) - ACCESS ALL) 7. SLV ORGANISATION FOR SECURITY AND COOPERATION IN EUROPE (OSCE) HEADQUARTERS - MONITORING TEAM LEAVING COMPOUND IN A CAR (2 SHOTS) 1.25 8. SV/CU ELECTION WORKERS/ POLLING SIGNS (2 SHOTS) 1.30 10. SLV BALLOT BOXES BEING PUT TOGETHER 1.35 TIRANA, ALBANIA (JUNE 26, 1997) (RTV - ACCESS ALL) 11. SV ALBANIAN PRESIDENT SALI BERISHA (DEMOCRAT) WITH CHEERING CROWDS 1.49 12. MCU PEOPLE CHEERING 1.54 13. CU/SLV/SV BERISHA MEETING OSCE SPECIAL ENVOY FRANZ VRANITZKY (3 SHOTS) 2.10 TIRANA, ALBANIA (JUNE 25, 1997) (RTV - ACCESS ALL) 14. SV OF RALLY FOR SOCIALIST PARTY OF BASHKIM FINO/ PEOPLE WAVING FLAGS AND CHANTING (3 SHOTS) 2.27 15. SV/CU/LV OF RALLY FOR LEGALITY PARTY WITH KING LEKA I/ FLAGS WAVING AT STATUE (3 SHOTS) 2.42 TIRANA, ALBANIA (JUNE 26, 1997) (RTV - ACCESS ALL) 16. SV BALLOT PAPERS BEING DELIVERED AT THE AIRPORT 2.47 17. CU PULL OUL SLV ITALIAN SOLDIERS GUARDING AND UNLOADING BOXES WITH BALLOT PAPERS 2.58 VLORE, ALBANIA (JUNE 26, 1997) (RTV - ACCESS ALL) 18. SLV ITALIAN ARMOURED PERSONNEL CARRIER (APC) CRUSHES MACHINE GUN SET UP IN STREET 3.15 19. LV BATTLE CONTINUES, GUNMEN ON STREETS, AUDIO OF GUNFIRE 3.27 Initials P3 S3 Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.
- Embargoed: 10th July 1997 13:00
- Location: VLORE AND TIRANA, ALBANIA
- Country: Albania
- Reuters ID: LVA227ARHAI6EATSNSCRCD49BARO
- Story Text: The troubled Albania port of Vlore is preparing for elections despite escalating gang warfare in the town.
Italian army tanks and armoured vehicles have taken up position near a hotel in the town in a show of strength against gunmen who have staged street battles for three days.
Soldiers from the International Protection Force are trying to keep the peace in advance of national elections on Sunday (June 29).
Witnesses said armed supporters of rival local warlords on Thursday (June 26) exchanged gunfire during a rally of rightist parties taking part in forthcoming general election next Sunday.
Police in the port said one person had died and two were injured during the day's violence.
The election will pit President Sali Berisha's Democratic Party against the Socialist opposition.
Like most of southern Albania, Vlore is run by a "Salvation Committee" violently opposed to Berisha and hoping the election will force him from office.
But the election has been threatened by the outbreak of daily street battles between two gangs, with residents scurrying inside at the sound of a warning siren.
On Thursday witnesses saw a fighter erect a machine gun outside the Hotel Bologna, housing international reporters, many of them Italians, in the Adriatic port and aim it at the hotel.
But an Italian tank approached the machine gun emplacement and the gunman took off his white T-shirt and waved it, apparently indicating he was prepared to withdraw. The tank was followed by an armoured vehicle, which rolled over the machine gun in an attempt to destroy it.
The Italians did not open fire and calm appeared to return to the area, though sporadic shooting could still be heard in another part of the town of 90,000 people.
Vlore was the starting point in January of largely spontaneous protests by investors who lost their savings in the collapse of fraudulent investment schemes.
From the furious, but principled protests of January, Vlore has descended into a daily cauldron of tactical street warfare, where masked fighters use trees, posts and gutted cars to stake out territorial advantage.
Up to 500 Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) monitors are expected in Albania to check Sunday's vote.
Prime Minister Sali Berisha said he supported an early closing of polling stations, clearing one of the last obstacles worrying international poll organisers.
"There is no political question in this respect, only a legal one," Berisha told reporters after holding more than an hour of talks with Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) special envoy Franz Vranitzky. "I will support any legal solution that will be found." The OSCE, which is overseeing the election, hundreds of observers and military leaders of a multinational protection force are concerned that lives could be put at risk if polling stations did not close before nightfall on Sunday.
Vranitzky, a former Austrian chancellor, held talks with Socialist leader Fatos Nano and Democrat chairman Tritan Shehu on Wednesday and was to meet other officials before leaving Tirana on Friday morning.
The first shipment of ballot papers arrived in Tirana from Italy on Thursday on a military C-130 plane. Italian soldiers unloaded stacks of paper wrapped in plastic foil and placed them in delivery vans under the eye of armed guards.
Political parties on Wednesday (June 25) continued last minute campaigning.
The socialist party held a rally in the capital Tirana, addressed by its most prominent member, prime minister Bashkim Fino.
Also on Wednesday, King Leka whose "Legality Party" wants to restore the monarchy in Albania, addressed a campaign rally.
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