Italy urges Albania to play calming role in Kosovo

ROME, Feb 23, 2000 -- (Reuters) Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini called on Albania on Tuesday to use its influence for peace in Kosovo after ethnic clashes in the Balkan province.

During a meeting with his Albanian counterpart Paskal Milo, Dini said Italy was concerned about "the situation in Kosovo, and in particular...the events of the past few days in Kosovska Mitrovica," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

"(Dini) invited the Albanian authorities to continue to play, at anytime possible, a role of moderators among Kosovars," the statement said.

On Monday, clashes broke out between Western peacekeepers and rioters when thousands of ethnic Albanians tried to storm across a bridge in the center of Mitrovica to reach the province's largest remaining Serb enclave.

Dini said he believed progress in the fight against crime and increasing public security in Albania were important for stability in the Balkans and to boost Tirana's credibility in the international community.

Dini said Italy would continue to support Albanian efforts to boost economic and social development, adding Rome was studying the possibility of financing more infrastructure projects in Albania.

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