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Nato Promises To Help Albania Cope With Refugees

Thu., March 12, 1998

NATO agreed Wednesday to provide more money and technical aid to help Albania police its border with Yugoslavia’s troubled Kosovo province, but called any talk of sending troops premature.

NATO also is activating a civil emergency unit to help Albania and neighboring Macedonia cope with any influx of refugees from Kosovo, officials said. The province is 90percent ethnic Albanian, and a push for independence from Yugoslavia has turned bloody in the past two weeks.

NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana planned to fly Thursday to the Albanian capital of Tirana to discuss the assistance.

“The situation in Kosovo is very high on our agenda … Albania has the solidarity of NATO,” Solana told reporters after meeting Albania’s defense secretary, Perikli Teta.

Teta had addressed the North Atlantic Council, NATO’s main policy making body comprising ambassadors from the 15 allied nations.

He did not directly appeal for NATO troops but asked if “the deployment of a NATO peacekeeping contingent on the Albania-Yugoslav border would contribute to stability in the region.”

NATO officials said the border was quiet and there was no “urgent requirement” to send troops.

The alliance, meanwhile, will do more to help the Albanian military control arms smuggling along the border with Kosovo, a senior NATO official said on condition of anonymity.

The alliance also was considering having military exercises in Albania and was considering taking a role in the international force in Macedonia, the official said.

Solana praised “the restraint that Albania has shown during the current crisis.” But officials said Albania was told to ensure that its territory was not used to supply weapons to the Kosovo Liberation Army.

An attack by the KLA, which is fighting for independence from Serb-dominated Yugoslavia, prompted a brutal crackdown by Serb authorities that has killed about 80 people.

Several countries also have been working through the United Nations to address the troubles in Kosovo. The United States and five other nations were pushing for a Security Council resolution to impose sanctions on Yugoslavia unless special Serb police units leave Kosovo within 10 days.

Those efforts appeared to have failed Wednesday, with the council issuing a statement emphasizing Yugoslavian territorial integrity.

“Members of the council reaffirmed the principals of the United Nations charter and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Yugoslavia,” said Gambia’s Momodou Sallah, this month’s president of the council.

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