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30-Year-Old To Be Albanian Leader

October 27, 1999

TIRANA, Albania (AP) _ A 30-year-old ally of former Prime Minister Pandeli Majko won the ruling Socialist Party’s endorsement today to succeed him as leader of the Balkans’ poorest and most unstable country.

Deputy Prime Minister Ilir Meta outpolled Mekbule Cecosi 67-46 in a vote by the party’s leadership. The nomination goes to President Rexhep Meidani for approval, considered simply a formality. Meidani was expected to ask Meta to form a new government later in the day.

Meta, a trained economist, had been widely expected to succeed Majko, who stepped down Tuesday. Majko, who was widely praised in the West for his handling of the crisis in neighboring Kosovo, said he was resigning to spare the country a bitter political battle after he lost the leadership of the Socialist Party to his predecessor, Fatos Nano, two weeks ago.

``The political crises which have occurred in Albania have influenced its stability,″ Majko said Tuesday. ``We have paid a very high economic and political price. I resigned so as not to become a part of this heritage.″

Although the head of the ruling party would normally be expected to take the premiership, Albanian political observers believe Nano was under strong international pressure not to seek the post for himself to avoid triggering further instability and conflict with the rival Democratic Party of former President Sali Berisha.

Nano and Berisha are both largely seen as tainted by association with Albania’s now-discredited Communists, who ruled this country with an iron hand from the end of World War II until 1991.

Nano resigned as Socialist party leader in January, four months after stepping down as prime minister in the wake of riots that nearly toppled his government.

Majko, a former student leader of the movement that brought down the Communists, had been seen as the standard-bearer of a new generation of Albanian politicians unencumbered by links to the old regime.

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