CEOL - China eyes normal ties with Albania despite discord over Kosovo

BEIJING, Dec 14, 1999 -- (AFP) China on Tuesday sought to turn its back on the Kosovo crisis as Albanian President Rexhep Meidani pursued an official visit, seven months after Chinese mobs laid siege to Tirana's embassy here.

"China is a friend of Albania as well as Yugoslavia," said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue.

"The issue of Kosovo should not be an obstacle to the development of relations," she said in an apparent attempt to minimize the anti-NATO passions whipped up by Beijing during the crisis over Yugoslavia.

Chinese demonstrators threw stones at the Albanian mission situated alongside the main focus of their protests -- the embassies of Britain and the United States -- after NATO's accidental bombing of China's embassy in Belgrade in May.

The mobs were also protesting against Tirana's backing for the Kosovo Albanians.

President Jiang Zemin received Meidani Monday.

"Although China and Albania have different views on Kosovo, they share a wide range of views on many other matters," Jiang was quoted by the official Xinhua news agency as telling Meidani.

China fiercely opposed the NATO intervention in Yugoslavia, arguing it was a transgression of sovereignty. Chinese media was silent on the Serbian massacres of Kosovar Albanians.

Meidani, who met Premier Zhu Rongji and National People's Congress Chairman Li Peng, Tuesday, is to leave Beijing Wednesday.

China and Albania enjoyed the closest of relations for a number of years during the cold war when maverick Marxist Enver Hoxha ruled the roost in Tirana. But relations took a nosedive when Hoxha took issue with Beijing's reformist line.

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