European Union may send military police to Albania Decision on mission to provide security for aid could come today


PARIS -- The European Union is expected to send a small military police contingent to Albania to provide security for the delivery of medicine, food, and other aid, European officials said yesterday.

The decision may come as early as today, when the foreign ministers of the 15-nation union will discuss the issue in Brussels, Belgium, Dutch government officials said. The Netherlands holds the presidency of the European Union.

The plan is to send "hundreds but not thousands" of Western European military police officers or troops assigned to police tasks, the officials said, to see to it that badly needed food and medical supplies get into the right hands.

Under the plan, apparently worked out with President Sali Berisha of Albania, the contingent also would reorganize the Albanian police.

The Dutch foreign minister, Hans van Mierlo, has pledged the participation of the Netherlands in such a police action. He said Friday that he had reason to believe the plan would be approved.

An earlier proposal to send European peacekeeping troops was rejected at a meeting in the Netherlands last week. Several countries, including France, apparently favored sending troops to Albania to restore order and stem the flood of refugees. But Britain and Germany were adamantly opposed.

Van Mierlo said the military police force might be placed under the command of Italy, a country with a larger aid and business presence in Albania than most, and which has been the destination of refugees fleeing across the Adriatic Sea.

A Dutch diplomat who led a European fact-finding commission to Albania said that food and medicine were running out in some areas and that restocking would be difficult as long as parts of the country remained unsafe because of armed gangs.

"That is why we put so much emphasis on security," said the diplomat, Jan de Marchant et d'Ansembourg.

In Tirana, the capital, more than 1,000 people demonstrated yesterday to press for an end to the unrest that has traumatized Albania since popular high-risk investment schemes began to unravel.

Demonstrators held small wooden sticks inscribed with the names of Albanian cities, and called on Albanians to remain united. They shouted: "South and north, Albania is one!"

Tirana is one of the few cities where police have managed to restore order. The government is trying to extend its authority beyond the capital, and for the second day in a row residents rallied to support its efforts.

More than 11,000 Albanians have fled to Italy since the turmoil turned into armed insurrection earlier this month.

Five would-be refugees were missing yesterday after a speedboat ferrying them to a larger craft ran out of fuel and they jumped overboard.

The boat was carrying 23 passengers across the Adriatic.

Pub Date: 3/24/97

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