VIENNA, JULY 6 -- Police today attacked demonstrators near the embassy district of Albania's capital, where thousands seeking to flee the country have jammed diplomatic missions, according to reports reaching here.
About 10,000 demonstrators gathered silently in a central square, following earlier protests demanding that the leadership of the last hard-line Communist nation in Eastern Europe adopt major reforms, according to a sketchy report from Tirana, the Albanian capital, by the Austria Press Agency.
Police charged demonstrators on the periphery of the rally, according to the news agency, whose reporter is one of a very small number of foreign correspondents in Albania. The demonstrators scattered, but regrouped moments later. No injuries were reported.
The clash occurred in Skanderbeg Square, not far from a sealed-off area of Tirana containing foreign embassies. Albanians began fleeing to embassies in the last week in an attempt to leave the country.
A Western diplomat contacted in Tirana said as many as 4,000 Albanians were pressed into embassies and their compounds, resulting in shortages of food and water.
West German officials in Bonn said more than 1,000 asylum seekers were in their Tirana embassy. An employee of the Italian Embassy in Tirana said the number there had grown to 700 by evening. Other officials said the French Embassy held 200 and the Polish and Czechoslovak embassies about 50 each.
Although President Ramiz Alia's government repeated a pledge to issue travel documents to all seeking to leave the country, at a special meeting of the Communist Party Central Comittee, Alia denounced those seeking to flee. "There is no room for generosity" in dealing with those who refuse to leave the embassies, Alia said. His comments, reported by the Albanian news agency ATA, suggested little room for compromise.
"The aims and actions of these destructive, anti-democratic and anti-Albanian forces go too far," Alia said. "We may be poor; undoubtedly we have difficulties and shortages, but the foreigner has never solved our troubles."
While pledging some steps toward "democratization," Alia's statement carried no hint that the leadership was considering any form of political pluralism, such as that now in place in former Communist countries in Eastern Europe.
The rush on the embassies continued today. Many people who already had Albanian passports and exit visas were seeking entry visas from embassies.
Attempts by foreign governments to send supplies and personnel to ease conditions in the embassies have been rebuffed by authorities. West Germany and France had sought landing rights to bring in personnel and supplies, including food, tents and medicine.
The United States has no embassy in Albania since the two countries do not have diplomatic relations.
During 45 years of hard-line Communist rule, travel for average Albanians has been virtually impossible. But under Alia -- who took over after the death of the nation's longtime ruler, Enver Hoxha, in 1985 -- the country has sought ties abroad and begun implementing some cautious reforms.
A package of new regulations entitling all Albanians over the age of 16 to own passports for foreign travel took effect Tuesday.