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Albanian president: U.S. ambassador meddles in election

by The Associated Press | April 25, 2021 at 4:51 a.m.
Leader of socialist party Edi Rama holds a speech during a closing political rally in city of Durres, Albania on Friday, April 23, 2021.Albania holds parliamentary elections on Sunday amid the virus pandemic and a bitter political rivalry between the country's two largest political parties but that will serve as a key milestone in the country's next step toward European Union membership. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

TIRANA, Albania -- Albania's president has accused the U.S. ambassador of intervening in the small European country's internal affairs by supporting its prime minister in today's parliamentary election.

President Ilir Meta spoke harshly about Ambassador Yuri Kim during a television talk show Friday night and called on the American diplomat "to stop supporting [Prime Minister Edi] Rama, who is violating the election."

While the show was airing on Syri Televizion, Kim sent a text message to Meta and also tweeted about the election, responding to a warning Meta gave this week that Albanians would take up pitchforks and other tools if the prime minister attempts to manipulate voting or the results.

"It is unacceptable for anyone to threaten that citizens will take up 'pitchforks' on April 25 or if they don't like the result of elections," the ambassador wrote. "These threats deserve condemnation. Those who incite violence will be held responsible for the results of their words and actions. Stop."

Albania's two largest political parties are bitter rivals. Confrontations between supporters of Rama's government and of the opposition culminated Wednesday with the death of a leading supporter of the governing Socialist Party. Police have said the victim was shot, allegedly by a member of the opposition Democratic Party, during an argument involving members of the opposing camps.

Meta has denounced Rama for allegedly running a "kleptocratic regime" that concentrated all legislative, administrative and judicial powers in the prime minister. He also accused Rama of bungling Albania's pandemic response and delaying the country's integration into the European Union.

The president holds the post without a party affiliation. Meta previously led the left-wing Socialist Movement for Integration, which is now led by his wife.

During Friday night's talk show, Meta called Rama a "gangster" and a "psychic ill person." He also became visibly agitated after receiving Kim's text and made extreme claims about the U.S. ambassador. At one point, the president hinted that Kim could be part of an international lobbying campaign against him led by Serbia.

"There are corrupt circles. There is lobbying paid by Serbia, there [in the U.S.] and in other countries, which use America's representatives against Ilir Meta," he said.

Meta alleged that Kim told him during one phone call, "We know some things about you."

"I have told [Washington] that if you have any issue with me, please let me know because I know that you may even kill me," he said. Meta added that he would go to a nearby mountain and then "you may launch a missile on me so that I don't damage other people."

After meeting with Lulzim Basha of the main opposition center-right Democratic Party, the U.S. ambassador Saturday reiterated that Washington "does not support any party or candidate."

"But we absolutely support the right of all citizens to vote freely & in peace," Kim tweeted.

A man riding a bicycle passes beside a member of the Albanian army securing the Spanish embassy ahead of the general elections in Tirana, Saturday, April 24, 2021. Albania holds parliamentary elections on Sunday amid the virus pandemic and a bitter political rivalry between the country's two largest political parties but that will serve as a key milestone in the country's next step toward European Union membership. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)
A man riding a bicycle passes beside a member of the Albanian army securing the Spanish embassy ahead of the general elections in Tirana, Saturday, April 24, 2021. Albania holds parliamentary elections on Sunday amid the virus pandemic and a bitter political rivalry between the country's two largest political parties but that will serve as a key milestone in the country's next step toward European Union membership. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)
A woman buys popcorn from a street vendor in capital Tirana, Saturday, April 24, 2021. Albania holds parliamentary elections on Sunday amid the virus pandemic and a bitter political rivalry between the country's two largest political parties but that will serve as a key milestone in the country's next step toward European Union membership. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)
A woman buys popcorn from a street vendor in capital Tirana, Saturday, April 24, 2021. Albania holds parliamentary elections on Sunday amid the virus pandemic and a bitter political rivalry between the country's two largest political parties but that will serve as a key milestone in the country's next step toward European Union membership. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)
Supporter of socialist party waving Albanian flag participates in the political rally in city of Durres, Albania on Friday, April 23, 2021.Albania holds parliamentary elections on Sunday amid the virus pandemic and a bitter political rivalry between the country's two largest political parties but that will serve as a key milestone in the country's next step toward European Union membership. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)
Supporter of socialist party waving Albanian flag participates in the political rally in city of Durres, Albania on Friday, April 23, 2021.Albania holds parliamentary elections on Sunday amid the virus pandemic and a bitter political rivalry between the country's two largest political parties but that will serve as a key milestone in the country's next step toward European Union membership. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)
A member of the Albanian army secures the Spanish embassy ahead of the general elections in Tirana, Saturday, April 24, 2021. Albania holds parliamentary elections on Sunday amid the virus pandemic and a bitter political rivalry between the country's two largest political parties but that will serve as a key milestone in the country's next step toward European Union membership. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)
A member of the Albanian army secures the Spanish embassy ahead of the general elections in Tirana, Saturday, April 24, 2021. Albania holds parliamentary elections on Sunday amid the virus pandemic and a bitter political rivalry between the country's two largest political parties but that will serve as a key milestone in the country's next step toward European Union membership. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)
A man passes by a historical monument in capital Tirana, Saturday, April 24, 2021. Albania holds parliamentary elections on Sunday amid the virus pandemic and a bitter political rivalry between the country's two largest political parties but that will serve as a key milestone in the country's next step toward European Union membership. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)
A man passes by a historical monument in capital Tirana, Saturday, April 24, 2021. Albania holds parliamentary elections on Sunday amid the virus pandemic and a bitter political rivalry between the country's two largest political parties but that will serve as a key milestone in the country's next step toward European Union membership. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)
FILE - In this Wednesday, April 21, 2021 file photo, Albanian President Ilir Meta speaks during an interview with the Associated Press in Tirana, Albania.  Albania’s president has accused the U.S. ambassador of intervening in the small European country’s internal affairs by supporting its prime minister in an upcoming parliamentary election. Meta spoke harshly about Ambassador Yuri Kim during a television talk show on Friday, April 23, 2021. While the show was airing, Kim sent a text message to Meta and also tweeted about Sunday’s election. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina, File)
FILE - In this Wednesday, April 21, 2021 file photo, Albanian President Ilir Meta speaks during an interview with the Associated Press in Tirana, Albania. Albania’s president has accused the U.S. ambassador of intervening in the small European country’s internal affairs by supporting its prime minister in an upcoming parliamentary election. Meta spoke harshly about Ambassador Yuri Kim during a television talk show on Friday, April 23, 2021. While the show was airing, Kim sent a text message to Meta and also tweeted about Sunday’s election. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina, File)
Leader of the Democratic Party Lulzim Basha, delivers his speech at the closing political rally in capital Tirana, Albania on Friday, April 23, 2021. Albania holds parliamentary elections on Sunday amid the virus pandemic and a bitter political rivalry between the country's two largest political parties but that will serve as a key milestone in the country's next step toward European Union membership. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)
Leader of the Democratic Party Lulzim Basha, delivers his speech at the closing political rally in capital Tirana, Albania on Friday, April 23, 2021. Albania holds parliamentary elections on Sunday amid the virus pandemic and a bitter political rivalry between the country's two largest political parties but that will serve as a key milestone in the country's next step toward European Union membership. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)
A man walks beneath a reflective installation at Paris square in capital Tirana, Albania on Saturay, April 24, 2021. Albania holds parliamentary elections on Sunday amid the virus pandemic and a bitter political rivalry between the country's two largest political parties but that will serve as a key milestone in the country's next step toward European Union membership. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)
A man walks beneath a reflective installation at Paris square in capital Tirana, Albania on Saturay, April 24, 2021. Albania holds parliamentary elections on Sunday amid the virus pandemic and a bitter political rivalry between the country's two largest political parties but that will serve as a key milestone in the country's next step toward European Union membership. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)
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