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26 June, 1998
Military experts from seven SE European countries meeting in Athens to discuss procedural matters related a proposed multinational force to prevent conflict in the Balkans are reported to have agreed on a committee to decide the force's peacekeeping missions, sources said yesterday.
The committee is to be made up of diplomats and military experts. The decision to set up the force was taken at a meeting of the defense undersecretaries of eight countries of southeast Europe and the United States in Tirana last month.
The Athens meeting is being attended by delegations from Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, Italy, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and Romania. Representatives from the US and Slovenia are attending as observers.
According to the sources, Greece, Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey have each offered a mechanized battalion for inclusion in the 4,000-men force, with Albania volunteering an infantry company, FYROM 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 of defense ministers of the participating countries in FYROM in September.
Greece has offered to house the force near Thessaloniki, and has a comprehensive proposal on the offer. Greece, Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey have said they are ready to undertake the expense of setting up the infrastructure and installations necessary for the force.
The Athens meeting ends today.
Source: Athens News Agency