Albania's Hoxha signals he's in command

By , Special correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

When Albanian party leader Enver Hoxha appeared before parliament to introduce his new prime minister, he also ended a wave of bizarre speculation about his government.

His appearance scotched rumors that he had fallen in an exchange of gunfire with Mehmet Shehu, his former second in command.

And his new premier, Adil Carcani, signaled that Albania was holding to the independent, antisuperpower policies that have characterized it since its break with China in the late 1970s.

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In his opening speech, Mr. Carcani said Albania was ready for good relations with its Balkan neighbors and with all countries ready for normal ties on a basis of equality and mutual benefit.

That included Yugoslavia, even though the rumors about Mr. Hoxha had originated in Belgrade after Radio Tirana announced the suicide of Mr. Shehu, Hoxha's chief deputy for 28 years. A Yugoslav news magazine published an extraordinary, but unsourced, story that the two men had had a shotout over a political disagreement.

To observers familiar with postwar Albania, it seemed unlikely. There had been no hint of disagreement between the two men at the party's November congress. Mr. Shehu was reelected to the party Politburo. The two had ruled Albania together since World War II.

The tale seemed to have been a by-product of the fierce propaganda campaign the Belgrade press has conducted against Albania ever since last year's ethnic rioting among the large Albanian population living in the south Yugoslav province of Kosovo. Despite the Kosovo issue, Albania exports both surplus oil and electricity to Yugoslavia.

Albania has normal relations and growing trade exchanges with all the European Community states except West Germany and Britain, and with the Scandinavians as well as many neutral and third-world countries.

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