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04 June, 1997
A possible cancellation of Albania's national elections on June 29 would constitute an "act of collective suicide" and spell disaster for the neighboring country, Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos warned here yesterday.
Speaking at a press conference at the end of his one-day visit to the Albanian capital, Mr. Pangalos said that "if elections were not held in the best possible way, we would have an act of collective suicide, we would have a general catastrophe of Albania for many years".
"All Albanian parties intend to participate in the elections," he explained, adding that elections were the only way out the country had from its current severe crisis.
Mr. Pangalos met separately with Albanian President Sali Berisha, Prime Minister Bashkim Fino, Foreign Minister Arian Starova, opposition Socialist Party leader Fatos Nano and other Albanian party leaders, including those of the predominately ethnic Greek party "Omonia".
According to press sources, Mr. Fino and Mr. Starova expressed concern about the recent flurry of bomb attacks in Albania.
Both reportedly asked Mr. Pangalos for Greece's help in reorganizing the police force and customs authorities.
Albania has just four weeks to prepare for elections.
In addition, he met with a representative of former Austrian chancellor Franz Vranitzky, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) envoy for Albania. In addition, Mr. Pangalos held brief talks with the chief of multinational force s in Albania, Italian Admiral Forlani.
The Italian admiral assured him that security measures will be strengthened in the south of the country by detachments of the multinational force, in light of the upcoming general elections.
Mr. Pangalos called on Adm. Forlani to have patrols increased along the Kakavia-Gjirokaster-Sarande and Elbasan-Korce motorways, namely, the two motorways from which the main bulk of Albanians living in Greece are expected to pass to vote in their country.
Earlier, the foreign minister said he was not visiting Albania as a mediator, but "my interest as a representative of the Greek people and government is to have a strong, democratic and prosperous Albania".
Greece believes the number of election observers should be expanded, and will send the greatest number of all countries, Mr. Pangalos said.
"We believe that the multinational force in Albania should make its presence known on election day," he told the press, adding: "I don't mean that it will guarantee all election posts, but I believe that its extensive presence will contribute to the feeling of security, thus discouraging any factors or powers that would have tried to make trouble during the elections."
Speaking earlier in the week after a meeting of European Union foreign ministers in Luxembourg on Monday, Mr. Pangalos said that Greece would be willing to provide observers and possibly additional troops to ensure the elections were conducted fairly.
In a related development, he clarified that Greece would assist the hundreds of thousands of Albanian immigrants currently in Greece who wanted to vote, whether they were legal or illegal residents.
"For Albanians wishing to travel to Albania to vote, we have decided to help and will supply them with some document, regardless of their legal status. This document will allow them to come to Albania to vote and return to Greece within a month," Mr. Pangalos said.
Asked to comment on whether the insurgents' committees in the south would obstruct elections, Mr. Pangalos said he had proposed to political party leaders that "they should make a joint appeal on television to their members and followers to support the elections".
The Greek minister visited Greek troops stationed in Albania as part of the multinational protection force later in the day.
Source: Athens News Agency