Palermo, Italy; 4 June 1997 (RFE/RL) - Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini says the 6,500-strong Italian-led Multinational Protection Force will be reinforced with more Italian troops in the two weeks around Albania's June 29 parliamentary elections. Dini says Italian officials are consulting with Albanian authorities in assessing the number of fresh troops required.
Dini, who spoke today to reporters in Palermo, Sicily, says he and Italian Defense Minister Beniamino Andreatta are arranging the short-term troop reinforcement to ensure security at all polling stations. He says the elections are indispensable for forming a new Albanian government with a democratic mandate.
Dini said that after the elections, which Italy wanted to be free, fair and honest, the military presence will be swiftly wound up. He says help will be extended after the ballot to rebuild Albania's police force and justice and administrative systems. Otherwise, he said Albania's instability would risk destabilizing the whole Balkan region even more.
Meanwhile, the European Union today denied Albanian press reports that emergency food shipments to the country had been delayed in order to pressure the country's political parties to take part in the ballot. In a statement released in Tirana, the EU office said food aid is in no way connected to the elections.
The statement says the EU will distribute 940 tons of flour during June to the most needy parts of the country.