Albania concerned over pace of Italian-led force
April 7, 1997
Web posted at: 12:04 p.m. EDT (1604 GMT)
TIRANA (CNN) -- Albania expressed concern on Monday about the
slowness of deployment of an Italian-led military force to
protect aid to the troubled Balkan state. Rome also faced
domestic political turmoil over sending troops for "Operation
Alba," the Italian word for sunrise.
Meanwhile, Albania was urging looters to return lethal
chemicals and radioactive materials, some of them used in
radars, that were seized from military bases during an
insurrection last month.
On the political front, Albania's foreign minister, Arjan
Starova, said there was concern about the pace of deployment
of the military force.
"We'd like a speedy action. ...We want this force as soon as
possible," Starova said. "But I have no doubt they will
Italy has said the force, approved by the U.N. Security
Council on March 28, will start arriving in the week starting
Italy is expected to provide 2,000 to 2,500 troops, France
1,000, Greece 700, Turkey 500, Spain 300 to 500 and Romania
400. Austria and Denmark say they are also considering
Starova said the nations taking part in the planned force
were still debating where they would deploy troops. The
forces plan to secure the northern port of Durras, Vlora in
the rebel-held south and the airport in Tirana, Albania's
Troops would protect shipments of food and medicine needed in
Europe's poorest state after lawless violence broke out
following the collapse of shady savings schemes.
The Italian Parliament votes Tuesday and Wednesday on the
mission, with Premier Romano Prodi expected to win approval
despite opposition from Italy's Communist Refoundation party.
The communists, who are outside Prodi's center-left coalition
but have given him the majority he needs on other issues,
oppose the Albanian force. They contend anti-Italian
sentiment in Albania would put Italian lives at risk.
Monday marks the 58th anniversary of the invasion of Albania
by Italian troops under fascist leader Benito Mussolini
during World War II.
U.N. relief agencies have warned that about 400,000 people
may be threatened by hunger after the armed uprising pushed
Albania to chaos.
Safety concerns were also heightened by the theft of toxic
chemicals and radioactive materials taken from four military
arsenals last month.
"They can kill. ... Please hand them back," Colonel Asllan
Bushati told Albanian television on Sunday.
Bushati said the objects had no value or use for civilians.
The radioactive objects, some looking like square tiles and
others like tiny capsules, contained strontium or cobalt, he
said. Some parts were used in radars and remained radioactive
for up to 30 years.
Barrels containing chemicals that could sting eyes or skin
and make breathing difficult had also been stolen, he said.
Bushati also urged people not to abandon the radioactive
objects in fields. "They pass from grass to livestock," he
said, warning that the radiation could then end up in beef
and pass to humans.
According to a 1996 report by Jane's Information Group, an
organization of British-based defense experts, Albania has
chemicals, like tear gas, for riot control but has no
programs for developing chemical weapons.
It also says there is no evidence that Albania's former
Communist rulers, who ruled until 1990, ever sought to
develop biological weapons. Albania has no nuclear weapons.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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