Greek president refuses to visit to Albania amid protests

Greek President Karolos Papoulias has cut short a trip to neighboring Albania following protests against him. Papoulias was due to meet Albanian President Alfred Moisiu later Tuesday in the southern town of Saranda. He decided to return to Greece after some 150 demonstrators gathered outside the hotel where he was due to meet Moisiu.

Relations between Greece and Albania have been strained several times in recent years over the status and treatment of ethnic minorities and employment issues facing several hundred thousand Albanian immigrants in Greece.

Aferdita Sokoli, a spokeswoman for the Albanian presidency, described Papoulias' decision as "unfortunate and unprecedented." Papoulias was in the nearby Albanian city of Gjirokaster when the decision was announced.

The protesters were members of an Albanian minority, thousands of whom were expelled from Greece after World War II after they were accused of collaborating with the Nazis.

Demanding compensation for family homes, the demonstrators held up banners in Greek and English, reading "We want justice" and "Stop the indifference."

Demonstrations also marred a visit to Albania last year by Papoulias' predecessor as president, Costis Stephanopoulos.

Greece said Tuesday's decision was made after Albanian authorities failed to take adequate measures to restrain the demonstrators.

Papoulias and Moisiu last met in March in the northern Greek city of Ioannina. A.M.

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