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Albania: EU Delegation Visits; Red Cross Appeals For Help

Tirana, 18 March 1997 (RFE/RL) - Members of a European Union delegation is visiting Albania today as refugees continue to flee the Balkan nation. The 11-member EU delegation is in the port cities of Durres and Vlore, which have recently seen numerous Albanians take to the sea in vessels, some unseaworthy. An estimated 1,000 refugees leave daily, most going to Italy.

The EU delegation visited with President Sali Berisha in Tirana late yesterday, hearing his call for emergency delivery of food and medicines and for European police units to help reestablish order.

The International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) is calling for emergency aid to Albania. In a statement released today in Geneva, the ICRC said the country "is practically cut off from the outside world and is receiving no supplies of food or medicines." It called for $11 million to provide 250,000 Albanians with assistance over the next three months.

The current unrest in Albania began in the south after the January collapse of several high-risk investment schemes. Insurgents holding several southern towns have demanded that Berisha resign by Thursday or face more unrest and a march on Tirana.

Yesterday, the United States said it will continue to evacuate U.S. citizens and other nationals from Albania.

State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said the United States had already evacuated nearly 500 American citizens and about 400 other foreign citizens from Tirana by air.

Burns said most of the foreigners evacuated were from European countries, but he said some were from Asia.

He said approximately 85 Albanians had been rescued from two unseaworthy vessels by a U.S. ship patrolling the Adriatic which is primarily responsible for the evacuation operation.