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Fresh opposition protests in Albania over accusations of government links to organised crime

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A protester holds a flare during an anti-government rally in Albania
A protester holds a flare during an anti-government rally in Albania -
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REUTERS/Florion Goga
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Thousands of protestors surrounded Albania's parliament building in the capital Tirana on Thursday to demand the government steps down over claims of corruption and links to organised crime.

The country's opposition parties had called for fresh protests following clashes with police at a rally the previous Saturday when crowds attacked Prime Minister Edi Rama's office. Police used tear gas to keep them away.

Rama said he would not resign and that there would be no fresh elections.

Hundreds of police were on duty around the parliament on Thursday and rolls of barbed wire has were put in place surrounding the building. The day's parliamentary proceedings were cancelled.

Resignations

Opposition members, led by Lulzim Basha of the centre-right Democratic Party, have signed resignation letters and are demanding an early election. Basha spoke to reporters ahead of the rally:

"The parliamentary opposition has unanimously decided to burn its parliamentary mandates and today is a day when we will deposit this unprecedented act in order to start the procedure of divesting ourselves from the mandates of a parliament that is not the product of the vote of the people, but is the product as it has been exposed by judicial wire tapes published by the international media, of organized crime cooperating openly with current government. We will now lead a civic, peaceful and democratic battle to restore legitimacy and democracy in Albania."

A US embassy statement in Tirana urged opposition supporters "to peacefully exercise their right of assembly and reject violence" and the government "to practice restraint".