Tirana is seeking to resurrect the telecom deal it blocked in 2005

TIRANA (AP) – Albanian authorities will ask a Turkish consortium to renegotiate some terms of the sale of state phone company Albtelecom, the Ministry of Economy said Friday, in a move to resurrect a deal the government canceled last year. Negotiators from the Economy and Telecommunications ministries will meet soon, «probably in a matter of days, and hold talks with the Turkish consortium on some changes in the contract of Albtelecom sale,» said spokeswoman Iva Tico. The Turkish Calik Enerji Telekomunikasyon AS consortium had been awarded the 120-million-euro contract to buy 76 percent of Albtelecom by Albania’s former socialist government. Prime Minister Sali Berisha’s Democratic Party-led government canceled the contract after his party took power in September 2005, claiming irregularities in the sale. The government hired international auditors to investigate the deal. After Berisha visited Turkey earlier this month, he said he had spoken with Ahmet Calik, the head of the consortium, and they had agreed to renegotiate the deal. Tico said that Albanian authorities would renegotiate the contract with the Turkish consortium rather than launching a new tender. «The Turkish company will be asked to accept changes in the terms of the contract which do not cover the price already agreed,» Tico said. Minister of Economy Genc Ruli has said if negotiations start soon, the deal could be completed within six months. Albtelecom, which the government valued at about 145 million euros in January 2004, is the only fixed-line telephone company in the country and it can also operate a mobile phone network. Calik Enerji was the only international company that bid for Albtelecom. Ten other companies – from Slovenia, South Korea, the United States, Kuwait and Ireland – had expressed interest but did not submit bids.