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16 April, 1997
The Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defense (KYSEA) yesterday formally ratified Greece's participation in the United Nations-mandated multinational peace force in Albania, as a Hellenic Air Force C-130 will transport the first 120 Greek troops to Tirana today while the landing craft "Samos" arrived in Thessaloniki yesterday to transport today another 120 Greek troops to Albania.
Following the KYSEA meeting, National Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos said that according to the Italian command's final plan, the vanguard of the Greek force is scheduled to leave for Tirana this morning. The remainder of the total of 760 troops are expected to be in position by the end of the week.
The Greek troops will be using 20 jeeps and three armored vehicles, 17 armored personnel carriers (four in Vlore) and 90 trucks for transport.
The multinational force's mission is to secure the speedy distribution of humanitarian aid to the Albanian people. The Greek troops will have the right to defend themselves, and if attacked will respond in accordance with UN provisions.
Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said later that KYSEA would reconvene on Friday to consider in detail the Albanian crisis.
Asked whether the issue of the Greek contingent's participation would be discussed in Parliament, Mr. Reppas said that foreign policy was conducted by the government "in a responsible and effective manner."
On his part, main opposition New Democracy party leader Costas Karamanlis expressed satisfaction with Greece's participation in the effort to restore peace in Albania, "despite reservations over the government's earlier handling (of the issue)".
"We are optimistic," a soldier participating in the Greek force told reporters in Thessaloniki. Another soldier, Thomas Boulionis, said that "we hope that the Albanian people will realize that we are going there to help them."
In a related development, two university professors yesterday spoke to the Greek troops about Albania's economic and political problems, its relations with its neighbors and the consequences to the region from a possible spread of the Albanian crisis to the Balkans.
Source: Athens News Agency