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Albania approves first non-communist Cabinet

Parliament has approved Albania's first non-communist Cabinet in the postwar era, formally breaking the grip of hard-line rule. A "government of national salvation" was approved Wednesday, a week after the communist Cabinet of Prime Minister Fatos Nano resigned in the middle of a crippling nationwide general strike and a badly shaken economy.

The Communist Party, which changed its name Wednesday from the Party of Labor to the Socialist Party, named 12 of the 24 new Cabinet ministers, but four of the choices were not party members.

The new prime minister, Ylli Bufi, a 42-year-old communist and chemical engineer, had served as food minister in the last Cabinet. The new Socialist Party also picked Tirana's former police chief as interior minister.

The leading opposition in Parliament, the Democratic Party, named seven ministers, including Gramoz Pashko as deputy prime minister and economics minister. The Democrats, who favor a free-market approach, will control most economics-related ministries.

They chose air force officer Perikli Teta as defense minister.

The new Cabinet will face the task of creating order from the chaos left by four decades of central planning, voluntary isolation from much of the world, police repression and suppression of economic initiative.

Bufi drew a grim picture of Albania's economy.

"The countryside is in crisis," he said. "The agricultural sector is not producing. If we do not halt the process, there will be an economic tragedy."

Albania ushered in a multiparty political system in March when it held free elections.

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