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Friday, 28 June, 2002, 15:49 GMT 16:49 UK
Ex-king's son returns to Albania
Crowd greets Leka Zog
Fewer people than expected greeted Leka Zog
Monarchists in Albania have welcomed the return of the exiled royal family.

The return of Leka Zog, the son of former King Zog, was made possible by an amnesty granted this month for his part in unrest during a referendum five years ago on the future of the monarchy.

Leka Zog had fled the country amid rioting following the 1997 referendum and a court in the capital Tirana later found him guilty in absentia of organising an armed uprising.

Leka Zog
Zog: Grateful to be home
"I thank the Albanian people and the parliament for giving me a chance to return to my homeland," he said after returning to Tirana on Friday.

Fewer than 500 people turned out to greet him. His supporters had been hoping he would be greeted by a crowd of several thousand.

Leka Zog was accompanied by his mother, who wept with joy, and his son.

The family plan to live in a villa in the capital close to government headquarters, a spokesman for them said.

Leka Zog, who was only two days old when his family fled Albania during the Italian invasion in 1939, has lived in South Africa for much of the past 20 years.

"The king is part of history," said Perparim Kurd, 45, a passenger at the airport.

"He is part of the historical nostalgia, but I don't believe he will play any role in the country's political life."

Exile

Former King Zog was deposed by the Communists in 1946.

He designated his son as successor before his death in 1961.

Leka returned to Albania in 1997, after the fall of the communist regime, in a failed campaign to take the throne.

Two-thirds of Albanian voters rejected the restoration of the monarchy in a referendum held that year.

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The BBC's Christen Thomson
"It is unlikely that Leka will ever be crowned King in Albania"
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07 Feb 99 | Africa
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