Albania to find and destroy 100 000 looted weapons

TIRANA, Sep 8, 2000 -- (AFP) Albania is to find and destroy more than 100,000 weapons looted by the during an uprising in 1997, Defense Minister Ilir Gjoni said Thursday.

He underlined how dangerous the weapons were to national security, peace, and stability in the region in a news conference after signing a memorandum agreeing to the destruction.

"We're determined to recover and destroy all the weapons," he said.

Other Albanian officials, however, put at one million the number of guns, light arms and grenades ransacked in early 1997 when civil unrest broke out over fraudulent pyramid financing schemes.

The unrest was only calmed when an international military force led by Italy intervened, although the government at the time was eventually forced to resign.

"The destruction of these weapons is good for Albania and good for the (Balkan) region," US Deputy Secretary of State for political and military affairs Eric Newsom, who was present at the ceremony, said.

Gjoni said the United States, Germany, and Norway will soon send military experts to determine how much the operation will cost and how to go about it.

For the last few months, the US, Swedish, and Norwegian governments financially supported Albania under a UN development aid program designed to encourage citizens to hand in their weapons.

The UN refused to outright buy the weapons back because such a move would have effectively paid those who stole the arms in the first place and could have encouraged more arms stealing in the future, it said.

Original article