Mediator: Albanian task force to arrive within 2 weeks
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.
"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
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