Democrat leader Sali Berisha named Albania's prime minister

Democratic Party leader Sali Berisha was named Albania's new prime minister Saturday, the president's office said.

President Alfred Moisiu formally declared Berisha premier after his party's win in July 3 parliamentary polls. The party has formed a coalition with other groups to take control of 80 of the 140 seats in the legislature.

Berisha will present his proposed Cabinet to parliament for approval next week. Lawmakers also voted Saturday to elect the Democrats' deputy leader, Jozefina Topalli, 42, to be the new parliament speaker. She becomes the first woman to serve in the post.

After weeks of delay, the Central Election Commission on Thursday declared the coalition led by Berisha's Democrats the winner of the July vote.

The new parliament held its first session Friday.

Berisha, 60, returns to power after eight years of Socialist government and after being forced to resign as anarchy swept the country when investment schemes collapsed in 1997.

He has pledged to cut taxes and streamline the government, adding his first priority will be to ensure that the next elections _ municipal polls in 2006 _ are fair. He has promised to fight widespread corruption and poverty and integrate the country into international institutions.

Berisha, a French-educated cardiologist, served as Albania's president from 1992 to 1997, the country's first elected post-communist president. He is banned by the constitution from running for president again.

Outgoing Prime Minister Fatos Nano, 52, resigned as Socialist Party leader. His party has claimed the poll was tainted by "violence and manipulation" and is calling for a parliamentary investigation.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which monitored the election, has said the poll marked an improvement but still fell short of international standards.

The OSCE and the United States welcomed the conclusion of the election process, pledging to continue assisting the country in pursuing its domestic reforms, including further reform of the electoral system.

Berisha said he expressed condolences to the U.S. Ambassador to Tirana Marcie B. Ries for the Katrina hurricane victims adding that as soon as the new Cabinet is approved by parliament it would send a US$300,000 (Ђ240,000) in aid and a medical team to the United States.

"I am sure that the American nation and President Bush will speedily overcome the consequences of this great natural calamity," said Berisha at a news conference, AP reported.

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