TIRANA, Albania — King Leka I Zogu, the self-proclaimed heir to the Albanian throne whose family was forced into exile two days after he was born and returned as the anarchy and chaos engulfed the country after the fall of communism, has died. He was 72.

King Leka I died of heart and lung problems at Tirana's Mother Teresa Hospital this morning, said Julinda Kamberi, a spokeswoman for the royal palace.

Health Minister Petrit Vasili said that "his Highness passed away after repeated cardiac arrests which the medical staff made the utmost to cope with, but couldn't."

King Leka I was the only son of the late King Ahmet Zogu who declared himself king of Albania in 1928 and ruled until the Italian army invaded Albania in 1939, forcing the family to flee the country two days after King Leka I was born.

Albania's communist rulers abolished the monarchy in 1946.

King Leka I first returned to Albania in 1993, spending just a few hours before authorities kicked him out, saying his royal passport was invalid.

He returned briefly again in 1997, when anarchy and chaos engulfed Albania following the collapse of shady investment schemes in which most Albanians lost their life savings and hoping for a referendum on the return of monarchy.

Once he had left the country, a Tirana court sentenced him in absentia to three years in prison on charges of organizing an armed uprising. An appeals court later lessened the charge to illegal firearms possession.

Albania's president pardoned him in 2002 and the Parliament approved a resolution supporting his return.

King Leka I Zogu married Australian-born Susan Cullen-Ward, in 1975. She died in 2004.

He is survived by his son, Leka II.

Funeral arrangements were not made public yet.