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Italian troops arrive on historic Albanian mission

Force aims to secure aid, help restore order

April 11, 1997
Web posted at: 11:40 a.m. EDT (1540 GMT)

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DURRAS, Albania (CNN) -- The first 20 Italian troops on an aid and order mission to Albania arrived in this port city west of Tirana on Friday and were immediately ambushed by a small army of journalists.

The advance party was to prepare a route for a 6,000-strong multinational force created to restore normalcy in the unsettled nation, wracked by weeks of near anarchy and armed banditry

The multinational force arriving next week will secure three areas for aid deliveries to the impoverished population:

  • Durras, about 20 miles west of Tirana, the capital
  • The port of Vlora, 50 miles southwest of Tirana
  • Tirana's airport
  • Low-key arrival

    Outnumbering the soldiers by nearly two to one, reporters and cameramen quickly descended on the troops for interviews as the advance party stepped onto the dock from the Italian transport ship Pantelleria.

    The vessel left the southeastern Italian port of Brindisi on Thursday night, escorted by the minesweeper Rimini.

    The soldiers, clad in combat fatigues, chatted warmly for about an hour with the pack of nearly 40 journalists and camera crews, most of them from Italy.

    Standing on the sun-drenched pier in front of the brilliant turquoise Adriatic, they also handed pieces of candy to local children.

    The arrival of the first soldiers in the first Italian-led multinational security force is big news in Italy. But only a handful of Albanians, who have been waiting for more than a month for international assistance, were on hand to witness the Italians' arrival in Durras.

    More Albanian papers back on streets

    In a further sign the country was returning to normal, two Albanian daily newspapers have resumed publication.

    Two independent titles in Tirana put out their first editions in a month on Friday, raising to four the number of dailies that have returned this week after parliament relaxed restrictions on local media.

    Reuters contributed to this report.


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