Phone-tap shows Italy taking sides in Albania

In their no doubt well-intentioned efforts to pull Albania back from the brink of anarchy, Italy has found itself embarrassed by revelations of a conversation its ambassador in Tirana, Paolo Foresti, is alleged to have had with one of President Sali Berisha's right-hand men.

In the conversation, a wiretap transcript of which was published by an Albanian newspaper and since broadcast on Italian television, Mr Foresti is heard urging the Democratic Party to sabotage an electoral accord brokered by the former Austrian Chancellor, Franz Vranitzky, and allow Italy to take over the mediation role instead.

The tape shows Mr Foresti clearly supporting the Mr Berisha's Democratic Party, despite Italy's policy of scrupulous impartiality in Albanian politics, and boasting that as far as the opposition is concerned, "we will crush them all". Andrew Gumbel

Letters, page 19