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U.S., Albania Renew Diplomatic Ties

March 16, 1991|From Times Wire Services

The United States renewed diplomatic relations with Albania on Friday after a break of 52 years and urged the last Communist state of Eastern Europe to move ahead with democratic reform.

At a State Department ceremony in Washington, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Raymond Seitz and Albanian Foreign Minister Muhamet Kapllani signed a memo of understanding restoring relations severed in June, 1939.

Seitz said Washington's willingness to help Albania build up its economy would be linked to a commitment to reform and respect for human rights. An early test would be Albania's first multi-party elections in 40 years, scheduled for March 31, to which the United States is sending an observer team.

Some key facts about Albania:

* POPULATION: 3.18 million, two-thirds under the age of 35. There are about 60,000 Greeks and 4,000 Macedonians.

* RELIGION: Most people are Muslim, but religion was banned by the government in 1967 and mosques and churches were closed.

* AREA: 11,101 square miles, bounded by the Adriatic Sea to the west, Yugoslavia to the north and east, and Greece to the south.

* CAPITAL: Tirana.

* DEFENSE: Army of 31,500, with 190 T-34 and T-54 tanks; navy of 2,000 with two Soviet "Whiskey" class submarines, two large patrol craft; air force of 7,200 with 95 combat aircraft.

* ECONOMY: Europe's poorest. Albanian economists unofficially estimate national income at $3 billion, which they say was an increase of almost 10% over 1988. Average monthly wage is about $65. Companies are state-owned, and Albania is self-sufficient in agriculture, which is organized in collectives.

* INDUSTRIES: Processing of agricultural raw materials, textiles and oil products.

* EXPORTS: Ferrochromium, copper wire, tobacco and cigarettes, timber, textiles.

* HISTORY: Albania gained independence in 1912 after 450 years of Turkish rule. It was occupied by Italy and Germany during World War II but liberated by Albanian partisans.

Enver Hoxha ruled the country, crushing all potential opposition. He died in 1985 and was succeeded by Ramiz Alia, who remains president of the Presidium of the National Assembly.

Early last year, Alia began opening the country to the outside world and introducing cautious human rights and economic reforms. In July, the government allowed 4,000 young Albanians to leave after they stormed foreign missions in an unprecedented show of discontent.

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