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News Briefs I

Loyalist Parliament Re-elects Embattled Albanian President

Los Angeles Times
TIRANA, Albania

Embattled President Sali Berisha was re-elected Monday by an obedient Parliament stacked with party faithful, while an emergency crackdown aimed at stopping fierce riots sent opposition politicians and journalists into hiding.

With parts of this impoverished country awash in anarchy, Berisha posted police roadblocks on major highways, slapped censorship on news reports and imposed a nationwide curfew that transformed the capital into a ghost town after nightfall. Police have orders to shoot-to-kill. Albanians cannot congregate in groups larger than four.

The violence that began with the collapse of fraudulent pyramid schemes and escalated into demands that Berisha's right-wing government step down reportedly continued in the south, after mobs looted army arsenals in a bloody weekend that claimed 13 lives.

State radio gave new accounts of more shootings, fires and looting.

But it was difficult to obtain independent details because the government cut telephone lines to Vlore, a southern Adriatic port town and former Communist stronghold that was the scene of the worst fighting.

Former Secretary of State Baker May Be U.N. Envoy to Sahara

The Washington Post

In a new bid to resolve the long-festering dispute over control of the Western Sahara, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan SM'72 plans to name former secretary of state James A. Baker III as his special envoy to explore possible compromises between the disputing parties, informed sources said Monday.

The appointment, expected to be announced soon, would mark Baker's return to international diplomacy for the first time since he left the State Department to run President George Bush's unsuccessful 1992 re-election campaign.

Baker forged a reputation as an activist, high-profile secretary of state under Bush. He played a key role in forging the alliance that fought Iraq in the Persian Gulf War and in prodding Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization into peace talks.

By contrast, the Western Sahara dispute is an obscure issue involving rival claims by Morocco, which annexed the former Spanish colony in the mid-1970s, and guerrillas of the Polisario Front, which seeks to create an independent state in the barren desert region.

After years of warfare, the two sides agreed in 1991 to a cease-fire and a United Nations-supervised referendum on the region's future by its nomadic inhabitants. However, efforts to register eligible voters have been stymied by charges of interference from both sides. The Polisario Front recently warned it will resume warfare if the stalemate is not broken.

Conrail to End Fight Over Merger

The Washington Post

Conrail Inc.'s board of directors signaled Monday that it has given up its months-long fight to prevent the northeastern railroad from being divided among the two other major eastern railroads, CSX Corp., and Norfolk Southern Corp.

The board apparently did not take a final vote on a new arrangement worked out by its management with CSX and Norfolk Southern, but announced that it had authorized Conrail management to negotiate amendments to its earlier merger agreement with CSX that would "assure that the Conrail shareholders receive $115 in cash per share at the earliest possible date."

That is the amount Norfolk Southern had offered to pay to acquire Conrail.

The board also said it had "taken action" on bonuses and an enhanced severance package for managers and employees not covered by collective bargaining agreements.