UPDATE 1-Albania parties urged to resolve differences

* West, president call for dialogue between main parties

* Video appears to show protester shot by security forces

* Arrest warrants issued over killings, but not carried out

(Adds comment from prime minister and opposition leader)

By Benet Koleka and Fatos Bytyci

TIRANA, Jan 23 (Reuters) - Albania’s president and western envoys urged warring political parties to settle their differences and called on security forces to investigate the killing of three people in an anti-government protest.

Prosecutors said on Sunday that police had not yet carried out arrest warrants issued for the six republican guardsmen suspected of the shootings in Friday’s confrontation.

Prime Minister Sali Berisha and opposition Socialist Party leader Edi Rama have blamed each other for the deaths, with each side promising new rallies in an escalating political row.

“Restoring political dialogue, respect for the institutions of the state and the expression of maturity and balance is of a vital importance for the present and European future of Albania,” a statement from President Bamir Topi and U.S. and European Union ambassadors said on Saturday evening.

They said it was “indispensable that law enforcement institutions cooperate with each other to conduct a transparent, professional and unbiased investigation”.

The prime minister said he would not allow fresh violence.

“Every attempt from him (Rama) for violence against institutions will have an exemplary punishment,” Berisha told a government meeting before his lawmakers approved a parliamentary investigation into the violence. “There will be zero tolerance for those who touch any institution.”

Rama told Reuters he was committed to peaceful action.

“The opposition has nothing in common with violence, weapons or internal impulse to take the power through streets. We want to move forward with peaceful resistance and open the way of new possibility for a democratic Albania,” he said.


The opposition Socialists have refused to accept the results of a 2009 election which gave Berisha, Albania’s dominant post-Communist politician, a second four-year term and accuse his government of corruption and vote fraud. The deputy prime minister resigned this month amid corruption charges.

On Friday, their supporters staged a demonstration in central Tirana, pelting Berisha’s office building with sticks and stones, prompting police to respond with tear gas, rubber bullets, water cannon, stun grenades and firearms.

Three civilians died, one of a gunshot wound to the head and two from shots to the chest, in the worst violence in the former Stalinist country since protesters backing Berisha stormed the same government building in 1998.

Video footage showed two of the victims collapse after shots rang out from the courtyard of the government building. About 60 people were wounded and 113 have been arrested. One protester and a policeman remain in critical condition.

One of Europe’s poorest countries, Albania is part of NATO but the European Union rejected its application last year to become an official candidate, urging it to fight corruption and establish a functioning democracy and the rule of law.

Urgent diplomatic consultations continued on Sunday.

In a move to bolster support, Berisha on Saturday gave a bonus of one month’s wages to security officials who patrolled the protest on Friday, and four months’ wages for police officials who were wounded.

Security officials have added coils of barbed wire on the ground around the government building on the capital’s main boulevard.

A planned opposition rally on Sunday was delayed pending the completion of the last two of three funerals. One funeral, with Rama in attendance, was broadcast live on Albanian television.

The opposition Socialists scheduled a rally for next Friday at the same location in front of Berisha’s office. (Editing by Adam Tanner and Ralph Boulton)