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Albania: EU Leaders Appear To Disagree On Aid

Tirana; 20 March 1997 (RFE/RL) -- EU leaders appeared to differ today in their assessment of the urgency of Albania's needs for food and medical aid.

EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner Hans Van den Broek said in Geneva today that "urgency is not great". But in the Hague today the head of the EU's fact-finding mission to Albania, Jan d'Ansembourg, said Europe's first priority in Albania's crisis should be to secure safe passage for food aid.

Tirana's airport re-opened today for the first time since it was closed by armed unrest a week ago. The first plane to leave, an Albanian Airlines plane, took off for Sofia in Bulgaria carrying 30 people of various nationalities. Western airlines say they do not plan to resume regular flights to Tirana before Sunday.

Tirana is slowly returning to normal but armed groups still control large parts of the south and incidents of violence are still being reported from there. Rebels demand the resignation of president Sali Berisha whom they blame for not protecting people from losing money in the recent collapse of high-risk investment schemes.

Thousands of Albanians have been fleeing in boats across the Adriatic sea to Italy. Italy has been sending back those deemed as undesirables.