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TIRANA, Albania (AP) _ Josef Limprecht, the U.S. ambassador to Albania, died of a heart attack Sunday. He was 55.

The diplomat was ending a tour of northern Albanian districts and was about to stop in the scenic Lura Lakes area when he was stricken, a U.S. Embassy official said.

According to Albanian officials, three medical teams were rushed to the area by helicopter, but the ambassador's condition did not allow his evacuation to a hospital. He subsequently died of the heart attack.

In Washington, a State Department official called Limprecht's death a ``horrible tragedy.''

Albanian President Rexhep Meidani said his country had lost a ``great friend.''

``His last tour to several towns in the north of the country is significant evidence of his serious and professional commitment,'' Meidani said in a statement.

Limprecht had served as ambassador to Albania since Sept. 9, 1999. His term was to end this summer.

Born and raised in Omaha, Neb., Limprecht began working for the State Department in 1975.

After several assignments in Washington and Bonn, Germany, he served as public safety adviser at the U.S. Mission in Berlin from 1985 to 1988. From 1988 to 1991, he was in charge of counternarcotics operations at the American Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan.

After that, he was deputy director of the Office of Israeli and Arab-Israeli Affairs at the State Department. After a tour as a division chief in the Bureau of Personnel, he became deputy chief of mission at the American Embassy in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, where he served from 1996 to 1999.

Limprecht graduated from the University of Chicago and received a Ph.D. in history from the University of California at Berkeley.