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Balkans: Military Leaders Debate Regional Force

By Tejinder Singh

Athens, 26 June 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Military experts from seven southeast European countries, meeting in Athens to discuss procedural matters related a proposed multi-national force to prevent conflict in the Balkans, are reported to have agreed on a committee to decide the force's peace-keeping missions.

Sources in Athens are cited by RFE/RL as saying the committee is to be made up of diplomats and military experts. The decision to set up the force was taken at a meeting in Tirana last month of the defense under-secretaries of eight countries of southeast Europe and the United States.

The Athens meeting is being attended by delegations from Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, Italy, (the Former Yugoslav Republic of) Macedonia and Romania. Representatives from the U.S. and Slovenia are attending as observers.

Reports say Greece, Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey has each offered a mechanized battalion for inclusion in the 4,000-troop force, with Albania volunteering an infantry company, Macedonia a mechanized company and Italy a battalion, with Rome promising more support for difficult missions.

Issues related to the location of the headquarters and which country has command will be discussed at a meeting in Macedonia of defense ministers of the participating countries in September.

Greece has offered to base the force near Thessaloniki. And, Greece, Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey have said they are ready to shoulder the expense of setting up the infrastructure and installations necessary for the force.

The Athens meeting ends today.