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Opening up to the outside world -- slowly

Albania has opened its door a crack wider to the outside world after 40 years of self-imposed isolation. Until the last couple of years only a few people from Greece, Turkey, France, and a few nonaligned countries had access to Albania.

The country is especially hostile to the two superpowers, which it considers equally bad.

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Last June Muhamet Kapllani, Albanian undersecretary for foreign affairs, visited Greece. Carolos Papoulias, Greece's deputy foreign minister, returned the favor in December -- the first top-level Greek diplomat in 40 years to visit Tirana, the Albanian capital.

In January the border between the two countries, closed since World War II, was reopened. A week later, Shane Korbeci, the Albanian minister for foreign trade, visited Athens. He met with Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou and signed bilateral trade agreements for nearly $100 million in 1985.

That is double last year's trade and a fourfold increase from 1982.

Diplomatic and press observers here say that Greece's primary interest in improving relations with Albania is its desire to improve the lot of the large Greek minority in Albania and to encourage more visits and freer communications between separated relatives.

To that end Greek officials, including Mr. Papandreou, have lately refrained from publicly criticizing the treatment of ethnic Greeks in Albania, variously estimated to number between 80,000 and 400,000.

Since 1981 Tirana has gradually established trade ties with many West and East European countries, improved relations with Yugoslavia, Turkey, Italy, and now Greece. It has restored diplomatic relations with Australia, renewed ties with China, and held exploratory talks with West Germany. And it has also allowed more Western journalists and tourists into the country.

``They want to improve their economy,'' said one diplomatic observer here. ``They can't do that through a closed door.''

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