Albania offers more peacekeeping units to international missions
Tirana, November 09, 2004 - Albania said Monday it could increase its participation in international peacekeeping operations as part of its efforts to join the European Union and NATO.

The Albanian army may send an infantry company and an engineer company, each with 70 troops, to Bosnia, and a medical team it created jointly with Croatia and Macedonia could be sent to Afghanistan, Defense Ministry spokesman Igli Hasani said.

Tirana has already deployed 70 peacekeeping troops in Bosnia and a 23 troop unit in Afghanistan. The small Balkan country, a staunch supporter of the U.S.-led war in Iraq, has also deployed 71 non-combat troops in Iraq, and authorities are discussing increasing the number to 120.

Albania's two new peacekeeping companies are part of the South East European Brigade (SEEBRIG) created in 1998 and made up of Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Greece, Italy, Slovenia, Romania, Turkey and the United States.

SEEBRIG was created to coordinate efforts among countries which were not NATO members at the time. NATO is expected to give its final approval during the first half of next year to make the force fully operational, Hasani said.

Albania has said it would maintain its military presence in Bosnia after the European Union takes over the NATO-led 7,500-strong peacekeeping force there early next year.

In August, Albania, Croatia and Macedonia agreed to send a joint military medical team to join international peacekeepers in Afghanistan.

All three countries hope to join NATO and have signed the Adriatic 3 Charter, a U.S.-backed initiative outlining a common strategy and promoting regional cooperation.
Source: AP, FT