BUDAPEST, JULY 7 -- Albania's ruling Communist Party dismissed several members of its Politburo today as it tried to end the occupation of foreign embassies by Albanians demanding the right to travel abroad.
Despite parliamentary approval today of a government promise to foreign diplomats and an estimated 5,000 Albanian asylum seekers in the embassies that those occupying the embassies would be permitted to leave, diplomats reached by telephone in the Albanian capital warned that the crisis was not over.
Asylum seekers appeared mistrustful of the government's demand that refugees leave the embassies to pick up their passports, and West Germany's foreign minister warned of the danger of an epidemic if a way were not found to end the occupation.
The official Albanian news agency reported tonight that the party's Central Committee had dismissed four members of the Politburo, including Internal Affairs Minister Simon Stefani, seen as a hard-liner within the leadership. Stefani has headed the security forces whose members opened fire last Monday on waves of asylum seekers who surged into embassy compounds.
The rehuffle appeared to confirm diplomats' statements that the refugee crisis would exacerbate a power struggle within Eastern Europe's last Stalinist government. President Ramiz Alia and his supporters have pressed cautious reforms, but have been opposed by hard-liners led by the widow of longtime Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha, who died in 1985.
Albania's parliament today formalized an earlier promise to grant passports to the asylum seekers, but Western diplomats said negotiations were stalled over the government's demand that refugees leave the embassies to pick up their passports.
"The Albanians want these people to pass by a special office to receive their passports, but I'm afraid these people are not willing to deal with Albanian officials," said Greek Ambassador Piros Dokianos.
"They are scared, even though from the Albanian side there is the assurance that nothing will happen to them," Dokianos said.
The passport decree was one of several pushed through by the Albanian parliament today in an effort to quell growing popular protest. The government made the promise two days ago, but today it also offered to send photographers to the embassies to take passport photos for the refugees.
U.N. Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar, who has been mediating between the Albanian government and the countries whose embassies have been occupied, said in Geneva that he believed the Albanian authorities would grant passports "to all Albanians who want to leave."
"We are still working toward a solution," said a West German official in Bonn. The true test of the Albanian offer, the official said, was whether it won the trust of the refugees. "I don't know of anyone leaving" the West German embassy, which shelters 2,500 asylum seekers, the official added.
But Hungarian consul Karoly Loincsek said in Tirana tonight that the 60 Albanians sheltered in his embassy were reassured by the Albanian government promise that refugees who went to pick up passports could be accompanied by Western diplomats and could remain in the embassy compounds until their travel papers were ready. Loincsek said issuing passports and exit visas to all 5,000 refugees could take at least two weeks.
The flow of asylum seekers continued Friday night and this morning.
At the West German embassy, the refugees have nearly exhausted food and medical supplies. Water lines have been cut off periodically, and sanitation is "nonexistent," according to a spokesman for the West German Foreign Ministry. A West German official said Albania still is refusing permission for West German planes to take food and medical supplies to Tirana.
West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher warned of the danger of an epidemic if the crisis is not resolved soon.
Western diplomats said Tirana was calm tonight, but said large crowds of onlookers had gathered on streets near the foreign embassies. Other Albanians, some believed to be members of the feared secret police, the Sigurimi, stood near the embassy fences today trying to persuade refugees to leave the embassy grounds.
The crisis is reminiscent of the East German exodus last fall, when tens of thousands of East Germans fled to the West German embassy in Prague. That flight began as a trickle, but increased steadily and became a flood once the East German government announced it would allow the refugees to leave.
The Albanian crisis followed street protests over the government's failure to make good on promises made in May that all citizens would be granted the right to passports and foreign travel.
Diplomats and observers say the question confronting Alia now is whether he can contain the expectations apparently created by the program of cautious reforms that he began this year in response to change in Eastern Europe.
The Albanian parliament's action today promised that the government would not punish those who had sought sanctuary.