Albania's communist leader Ramiz Alia blamed the country's enemies Saturday for current political violence and said he would defend the heritage of his hard-line predecessor Enver Hoxha.
In a radio speech issued by the official ATA news agency, Alia pledged to uphold law and order and said the instigators of riots in Tirana and elsewhere would be punished."We will not allow Albania to become a holocaust of the political ploys of various oppositions or the aims of external enemies," Alia said.
He appealed for public support to combat what he called "vandal and terrorist elements" and warned against attempts to split the ruling Communist Party.
Opposition sources in Tirana reported fresh unrest in the southern town of Fieri where pro-government peasants, bused in from the countryside, tried to re-erect a statue of Hoxha and clashed with local citizens.
The sources said police had fired shots to disperse the crowd. They had no reports of any injuries.
In Paris, Leka, the exiled son of King Zog, Albania's last monarch, said his own sources spoke of 20 people dead and at least 50 injured in the clashes.
The self-styled King of Albania said 20 people had been killed in anti-government riots in Tirana and that the authorities had declared a state of siege there Saturday afternoon.
He told Reuters in a telephone interview that "hospitals are working overtime" to cope with Albanians injured in riots and that fighting was continuing around the military academy.
Official figures say four people have been killed in Tirana in three days of anti-communist rioting during which a statue of Hoxha, the symbol of Stalinist rule in Albania over 45 years, was toppled.
"The figure of Enver Hoxha cannot be torn down because it personifies the biography of the people, the history of new Albania. The (Communist) Party and the Albanian people are proud of having had such a leader," Alia said.
Genc Pollo, a spokesman for the opposition Democratic Party, said he had been surprised by the hard tone of Alia's speech.
"I was unpleasantly surprised to hear Alia mention the opposition in the same breath as unidentified external enemies," he told Reuters.
The Democratic Party issued a statement accusing government and Communist Party hard-liners of provoking violence to pave the way for a military coup.
Alia, the successor of Hoxha who died in 1985, dismissed the hard-line cabinet of Adil Carcani Friday and installed a new cabinet composed mainly of party technocrats, bowing to student demands.
He also set up a presidential council which threatened to impose a state of emergency if law and order were not restored.
Officials said the four people killed, one policeman and three civilians, were shot around the Tirana military academy Friday evening after clashes between liberal officers and hardliners who wanted to restore Hoxha's statue in the city centre.
Alia accused demonstrators of shooting at the police who shot back in self-defense.
"Those weapons which were fired on the evening of Feb. 22 against our people's army and the forces of order were brought by somebody to Albania and somebody calculated their use," Alia said.
The Democratic Party said the clashes, in which it alleged hard-line officers from the academy shot into the crowd first, was further proof of attempts to create an excuse for martial law.
"We appeal to all Albanians to help oppose the dark forces which are trying to destroy democracy in Albania," it said.
Pollo said he feared hard-liners were trying to create an atmosphere of fear before multi-party elections planned for March 31. "In such an atmosphere the elections could not be regular," he said.
Albania has been swept by political unrest since student demonstrations in December. Alia has bowed to some some student demands and promised a series of reforms, including permission to drop Hoxha's name from the official title of Tirana University.