AIM: start

FRI, 26 OCT 2001 22:09:22 GMT

Albania in the Anti-Terrorist Coalition

AIM Tirana, October 14, 2001

Dissatisfied with the mere condemnation of terrorist acts in the USA, the Tirana Government simultaneously pursued the policy thanks to which it became a member of, albeit virtual, new US-led geo-political coalition for the fight against terrorist logistics and support bases.

This argument became the subject of a broad debate in the Albanian Parliament, which already on September 27 proposed the launching of legislative reform suggested by an opposition group of the Reformed Democratic Party and unanimously accepted by the entire Parliament. "It is not enough to support this fight politically, we have to be prepared to make our air space and ports available for these purposes, which requires legislative changes and re-examination of Conventions we have ratified till now", stated a deputy of this group, Dashamir Shehi.

On September 27, President of Parliament Namik Dokle announced the adoption of a new reform of Albanian prison system, which would specify not only the change of the existing legislative frameworks, but also measures to be undertaken for the ratification of anti-terrorist conventions, especially the Rome Statutes on the International Crime Tribunal, conclusion of new international agreements aimed at preventing the financing of terrorism and meeting all obligations resulting from the existing agreements.

This Resolution expresses the readiness of the Albanian state to support and cooperate with the US Government and anti-terrorist coalition so as to "punish all those responsible for monstrous crimes as well as to eradicate their causes".

The objective of this Resolution was not only the support to and virtual cooperation with the USA. It seems that it is linked with something else, such as Albania's participation in the Islamic Conference and obligations stemming from that membership. Albania, which is geo-politically situated in Europe, wants to avoid all insinuations that it is a Muslim country.

The changes carried out in Albania's police force and secret services were made along these lines. Thus, the process of the establishment of a new structure within the Ministry of the Interior, called the Office for Combating Organised Crime, with the Anti-Terrorist Division, was concluded on October 10. This Office will work under the FBI's supervision and will directly answer to Bylbyl Mema, Director General of the Police. Its concept was prepared by the American anti-terrorist and crime experts for which the USA provided USD 2 million.

Several days ago, the Albanian Prime Minister, Ilir Meta issued a statement in which Albania offered the USA not only its political support, but also military assistance, if required, placing its military bases, ports, airports and everything else required in an anti-terrorist war at the disposal of the anti-terrorist coalition.

President of the Republic Rexhep Meidani was of the same opinion when during the Sofia Presidential Summit Conference on October 5 said that "Albania is prepared to cooperate with the NATO, USA and EU in the fight against terrorism and, as de facto member of the Alliance, is placing its naval, land and airs space at its disposal".

But, while the Albanian Parliament is reviewing a resolution dedicated to the fight against terrorism, another fact became the subject of debate not only in the supreme legislative authorities, but also the Albanian media. On October 10, the Albanian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Sylejman Tomcini took part in the extraordinary meeting of the organisation of the Islamic Conference held in Qatar. Although Albania was represented by its Ambassador at this Conference of Foreign Ministers, this news launched a debate and heightened tensions thus hindering the Parliament's work on the Resolution. Deputy Nikolle Lesi called the Albania's participation "a fatal error" made at the moment when the international forces were coordinating their work in the fight against terrorism.

Moreover, the greatest dissatisfaction was provoked by the fact that the Albanian Ambassador did not take the floor to express his support for the Conference declarations condemning the acts committed in the USA and at the same time expressing concern over the attacks on Afghanistan that could result in numerous casualties. The Conference also made it clear that it disapproved of the air strikes against other Arab countries under the pretext of fighting terrorism, while American President George W.Bush clarified the stand of the other side: "Those who are not with us in this war, are against us".

Bearing in mind the current international political pressure, why didn't Foreign Minister Ms. Arta Dade, who had information on this Conference, take measures to prevent the Albanian participation? On this, the Director of the Information Service of this Ministry, Sokol Djoka said that "this participation was used to inform the Arab world of the stand of the Albanian Government that it has joined the broad US-led coalition". According to Djoka, a number of countries who expressed their support for the fight against terrorism, also took part in this Conference, which was why the participation of the Albanian Ambassador was not a cause for alarm.

Despite these debates, in a couple of days the Parliament in Tirana is expected to adopt a resolution entitled "Albania as a Member of the Broad Alliance Against Terrorism" which all political groups agreed with. In this connection, Namik Dokle, President of Parliament, pointed to "the importance of this declaration in view of proportions that the world war against terrorism has acquired and bearing in mind the need to organise such a fight in the defence of human values".

Several articles published by the Western media on suspicious terrorist elements in Albania have made its position much clearer ranking it among full members of, albeit virtual, US-led anti-terrorist coalition.

AIM Tirana