The United States and Albania resumed diplomatic relations Friday for the first time in half a century, with Tirana's top diplomat promising the tiny Balkan nation will "march ahead on the road of democracy."

Renewed ties were formalized at the State Department with the signing of a memorandum of understanding by Assistant Secretary of State Raymond Seitz and Albanian Foreign Minister Muhamet Kapllani.Noting that Albania will hold multiparty elections March 31, Seitz said Washington "supports and encourages the process of political and economic reform which has begun in Albania."

Relations between the two nations were severed in June 1939 when Benito Mussolini's Italy took over Albania.