Crackdown on the Adriatic

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TIRANA, Albania: Less than 12 hours after the country entered a state of emergency amid widespread violence, Albania's parliament re-elected the man who pledged to use an "iron fist" to end the chaos. Thus President Sali Berisha enters his fifth year as leader of this often forgotten Eastern European nation, which has been gripped with unrest since mid-January when failed pyramid schemes left thousands destitute. Under the state of emergency, declared Sunday evening, people cannot gather in groups of more than four and must stay off the streets between 8 pm and 7 am. People caught outside during those hours will be arrested or even shot if they offer resistance. All foreigners were ordered to leave southern Albania, the center of the violence, by 2 pm -- the same time when all armed rebels were ordered to surrender their weapons. At least 14 people have been killed and an estimated 150 injured since protests turned violent Feb. 28. Berisha's announcement Saturday that Prime Minister Aleksander Meksi and his Cabinet would resign failed to calm the public fury. On Sunday, state television showed angry protesters looting an army arsenal in southern Albania and walking away with weapons. Outside Vlora, crowds broke into and ransacked President Berisha's summer home. Berisha is blaming the violence on his political rivals, including the socialists, the successors to the communists who controlled the country before his Democratic party took control in 1992. Berisha's government has also blamed the media for inciting violence and has demanded that all newspapers submit copy to its Defense Council before publication.