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Albania: U.S. Envoy Concerned Over Terrorism In Balkans

A U.S. envoy in Tirana this week promised unlimited U.S. support for fighting terrorism and rooting out suspected terrorist cells in the region. The envoy, James Holmes, also singled out Greece as a country of particular concern.

Tirana, 21 March 2002 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. special envoy for the Balkans James Holmes, on a visit to Tirana this week, expressed grave concern about the presence of suspected terrorists in the Balkans.

He promised what he called Washington's "unlimited support" for an effective fight against terrorist capabilities in the region.

Holmes singled out Greece as a country of particular concern. He said, "The failure over a number of years in the fight against the 'November 17 Movement' in Greece has been a cause of enormous concern for the United States." The group has traditionally targeted the U.S. military and diplomatic presence in Greece.

Holmes, who recently replaced James Pardew as the U.S. special Balkans envoy, called on authorities in Greece "to renew the imperative which we place on their renewed commitment to deal effectively and definitively with the terrorist activities of 'November 17'."

Holmes also noted the recent detention of terrorists in Bosnia-Herzegovina and of other terrorist suspects in Albania several years ago. He said these are of no less concern to Washington than the November 17 group in Greece.

He added, however, that the U.S. has found, in both Bosnia and Albania, effective cooperation from authorities in dealing with terrorism.

"So we look to the authorities throughout the region to be alert to the opportunities which terrorists may try to exploit in the Balkans and to be aggressive in terms of the development of their capabilities to work against terrorist interests. We are concerned with terrorism on a global basis, and we were concerned with terrorism as it may manifest itself in the Balkans."

Holmes was equally outspoken in advising Albania to pay more attention to combating the trafficking of drugs and people across its territory. He says Albania should make better use of the assistance offered by the U.S. and Europe.

"It's important for Albania to make better consumption and better use of the assistance which is being made available. And it's important for Albania to reaffirm its partners with respect to its commitment to be serious about dealing and managing the trafficking issue."

Interpol recently said 40 percent of European narcotics trafficking transits Albania. More than 40,000 Albanian girls, many of them minors, are exploited for the sex trade by regional Mafia. These activities are estimated to generate more than $1 billion a year.