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Albania's president denounces US sanction of former leader

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Albania’s president offered public support Saturday to a former prime minister who was sanctioned by the United States this week for corruption.

President Ilir Meta made public a letter to former Prime Minister Sali Berisha that described the sanctioning of the politician as a “shameful, unfaithful and nasty act” prompted by anti-Albanian lobbying.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday that Berisha and his immediate family were barred from entering the United States. Blinken accused Berisha, who served as Albania’s prime minister from 2005 until 2013, of being “involved in corrupt acts…including using his power for his own benefit and to enrich his political allies and his family members.”

Blinken also alleged that while in office Berisha interfered in the judiciary “at the expense of independent investigations, anticorruption efforts, and accountability measures.”

Berisha, 76, is currently a lawmaker representing the opposition Democratic Party in Albania’s parliament. He also served as Albania’s second post-communist president from 1992 to 1997.

In his defense of his predecessor, Meta alleged that Blinken’s decision was “ordered from the kleptocratic regime” in Albania at a time when the results of the country’s April 25 parliamentary election are being contested.

Meta has been at odds with the governing Socialist Party, which has moved to have him impeached for not remaining non-partisan during the election.

Llazar Semini, The Associated Press