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Last Updated: Friday, 11 November 2005, 14:34 GMT
Albania paralysed by power cuts
Boy does homework by candlelight in Tirana
The blackouts leave homes in darkness for hours each day
The Albanian government is taking measures to end power cuts that have crippled the country since Monday.

Restrictions have left most Albanians without power for light, heating and cooking for 18 hours a day.

Only emergency services and foreign embassies have had unrestricted power, in what some describe as Albania's worst ever power shortage.

The government is to privatise 80 small hydropower stations and boost energy imports, reports say.

Water shortage

Correspondents say Albania's grid is on the brink of collapse, with water supplies in the hydropower plants reaching the minimum level.

The last such plant was built about 30 years ago and there has been little investment in the grid since.

The failure of existing hydropower stations to produce energy has been blamed on low water levels.

State power utility Kesh has been importing power from companies in Romania and Bulgaria, and hopes to transfer more from Italy.

Currently, blackouts in Tirana last from 0630GMT until 1500GMT. In outlying areas power is cut an hour earlier, but there are villages that have no electricity for days on end.

Albanian officials have said the country has less than a two weeks' supply and frantic efforts are being undertaken to conclude new contracts.

Blame game

Prime Minister Sali Berisha travelled to Italy on Thursday - where he met the head of energy company Enel.

Mr Berisha said he had received promises of help and was confident the crisis would be overcome - and a total collapse of the power grid avoided.

The crisis has turned into a political blame game, with Mr Berisha accusing the Socialists he replaced in September of failing to secure contracts in order to undermine his government.

They accuse Mr Berisha's cabinet of amateurism in negotiating a way out of the crisis.

Earlier this week, European Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn told Albania that negotiations on a co-operation treaty, seen as the first step towards EU membership, could be completed in the coming months.

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Timeline: Albania
01 Sep 05 |  Country profiles

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