Time to Rethink Albania's Hard Line, Leader Stresses : Eastern Europe: President Alia signals a further shift away from the country's orthodox Communist past.

From Times Wire Services

Albanian President Ramiz Alia says his hard-line Communist country should rethink enshrining the Communist Party's leading role and policy of atheism in the constitution, the state news agency reported Thursday.

Signaling a further shift away from the country's orthodox Communist past, Alia said the ruling Party of Labor of Albania "should not and cannot exert state power directly" but should respect the rule of law, according to remarks published by the official news agency ATA.

He also said the establishment of normal diplomatic relations with the United States awaits only an announcement from Washington.

Alia, who is trying to introduce cautious reforms and bring his Balkan country slowly out of self-imposed isolation, also decried bureaucracy and a lack of discipline.

The comments by Alia appeared to be another cautious step toward reform.

The speech also seemed timed to influence a Paris summit that will decide later this month whether to admit Albania to an all-European system of cooperation and human rights.

In the speech, Alia did not say the Communists should give up power or legalize a political opposition, nor did he suggest a specific constitutional amendment.

The constitution refers to the party as the "only leading political force in the state," but Alia said that the Communists won that status "through struggle, work, self-denial, and adherence to the interests of the people and the homeland."

That echoed Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev's rationale earlier this year for calling on the Soviet Communist Party to give up its guaranteed monopoly on power.

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