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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Albanian Warlords Say Berisha Must Quit

TIRANA, Albania -- European Union officials assessed the aid needs of Albania on Tuesday in hopes that the worst turmoil had ended, but southern warlords threatened further unrest unless President Sali Berisha resigns.

"If Berisha does not resign, we will replace him with a presidential committee,'' said a spokesman for the insurgent National Salvation Council, which groups the 12 southern towns controlled by the rebels. The spokesman, who declined to be identified, said such a committee would be composed of members of the caretaker government, opposition parties and representatives of the Salvation Council.

The warning was issued after the council met in Gjirokaster and elected retired General Xhevat Kociu as its leader. Kociu was forced to retire in 1994 when Berisha reshuffled his military.

The president has offered a wide range of compromises -- including early elections -- to end armed insurrection. But he has refused to resign unless his Democratic Party loses those elections, expected no later than June.

European Union officials planned to assess the aid needs of Albania during visits Tuesday to the ports of Durres and Vlora. During a meeting Monday with an 11-member EU delegation, Berisha requested immediate delivery of food and medicines to keep Albania from sliding further into chaos, the ATA state news agency reported.

Berisha asked for Europe's help in re-establishing the public and financial institutions needed to restore normality. He also asked for European police to help restore order in Albania.

Calm has returned to Tirana, the capital, but Albanians are expressing their desperation by attempting to leave the country. More than 2,500 Albanians fled for Italy on Tuesday, and the pace of the exodus is picking up, said the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR.

Spokeswoman Maki Shinohara said that Italy and Greece had so far received nearly 12,000 refugees from Albania. The UNHCR was concerned about the fate of f refugees on decrepit, overloaded ships. (AP), Reuters)