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Mediator: Albanian task force to arrive within 2 weeks

UN member

March 29, 1997
Web posted at 6:00 p.m. EST (2300 GMT)

TIRANA, Albania (CNN) -- A multinational task force could arrive in chaos-wracked Albania as early as next week to protect the delivery of humanitarian aid, the top international mediator for Albania said Saturday.

Franz Vranitsky made the announcement less than 24 hours after the U.N. Security Council approved the task force 14-0, with China abstaining.

Under the resolution, international troops will stay in Albania for at least three months. It also authorizes mission members to use force if necessary to defend themselves.

Vranitsky, the former Austrian chancellor and now an envoy of the 54-nation Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, told the Austria Press Agency that the designated three-month period was "certainly a very short time. But that will increase the pressure to work."

The resolution was rushed through Friday, at the urgings of Italy, which insisted the members meet on Good Friday, a celebrated U.N. holiday.

humanitarian workers "I'm very, very happy that despite the holiday the Security Council acted in such a speedy and prompt way," Italian Ambassador Francesco Paolo Fulci said. "From this moment on, relief can go there at any time."

Italian diplomats said they expected about 2,500 troops to arrive in the initial phase of the multinational force, with double that number once the security situation stabilized. Italy, Greece, France, Spain, Portugal, Romania and Austria have expressed willingness to supply troops for the force.

Other highlights of the resolution include:

  • Authorization of member states to "conduct the operation in a neutral and impartial way" and to "facilitate the safe and prompt delivery of humanitarian assistance and help create a secure environment for the missions of international organizations in Albania."

  • The cost will be borne by the countries sending the personnel, not the United Nations.

Boat sinking kills 4

Meanwhile, Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi said the sinking of an Albanian refugee boat accentuated the urgent need for a task force.

Four people died and 34 others were rescued from the Adriatic Sea after the boat went down Friday. Port and police authorities estimate that there were between 45 and 70 people aboard. Survivors said more than 100 people were onboard.

"This event shows that the international operation to help Albania has to begin as soon as possible," Prodi said.

Italy's government and navy have rejected responsibility for the sinking of the boat.

More than 13,000 Albanians have reached Italy in recent weeks amid the nation's upheaval. The sinking was the first incident involving fatalities since the exodus began March 13.


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