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NOW COMES HARD PART FOR ALBANIA

Albania, the last toehold of communism in Europe, has rejected the old rule and is plunging into the turbulent waters of political freedom. But it would be wrong for Albanians to think they have solved all their problems by exchanging their hard-line government for a democracy.

After the euphoria of this week's landslide victory will come the hard realities that other countries now face that have chosen democracy over communism. These include supplying the basics such as food, heat, jobs, education - all without relying too heavily on foreign aid.Currently, Albanians live in a world of hunger, crime and chaos. Unemployment is 50 percent. This small, mountainous nation in the Balkan Peninsula of southeastern Europe, survives on foreign aid. People riot over a loaf of bread and a can of kerosene.

Democratic forces swept to a lopsided victory on a wave of discontent, but expectations of freedom are high. During the election, some Albanians saw the Socialist Party - the renamed communists - as the only party interested in the poor. But the socialists were saddled with the legacy of Enver Hoxha - the Stalinist who sealed Albania off from the rest of Europe for four decades.

Yet with all the demands in the rest of a changing world, Western countries such as the United States may offer some support, guidance and inspiration. But they cannot be relied upon to put bread in the mouths of all who are in need.

Already, the Bush administration is getting criticism from former President Richard Nixon and others for not doing enough to help struggling Russia. The rest of Eastern Europe is still calling for more aid. Tiny Albania may be far down the priority list.

With a strong anti-communist message being sent with this election, it may be easier to obtain some additional aid, but foreigners will insist on Albania standing on its own free feet to build a new future.

Albanians already understand the words of democratic leader Sali Berisha: "Now the dawn has arrived, there is a different light and we can look around and see the damage that was done in the night. Much needs to be done to rehabilitate this country."

The task of rebuilding the poorest country in Europe will be daunting. And the United States should try to help. But it's going to be up to the Albanians themselves to make their newly free nation function.

The new government must give the people a reason to want to remain in their land. They will have to extend their hands to each other for support instead of merely extending a hand for foreign aid.