Montenegro, Albania to step up fight against crime

SHKODER, Apr 14, 2000 -- (Reuters) Police in Montenegro have agreed to cooperate with Albania in fighting crime even though Yugoslavia does not have diplomatic relations with Tirana, Albanian police said on Thursday.

The move underscored efforts by Montenegro, Serbia's smaller sister republic in the Yugoslav federation, to establish its own links with countries in the region in defiance of Belgrade, from which it is seeking independence.

At a meeting of regional police chiefs on Tuesday in Podgorica, the Montenegrin capital, the two sides agreed to swap information on criminals and fight prostitution and smuggling.

"We decided to exchange information on criminality on both sides of the border," regional police chief Bilbil Mema told reporters in the Albanian town of Shkoder, adding that this was the first time in 50 years that the two sides had cooperated.

"This means that people who commit crimes in Albania and seek refuge in Montenegro to cover their tracks will be identified by Montenegrin police and vice versa."

Albania and Montenegro reopened their common border late in February after three years. The border was shut when Albania plunged into anarchy in 1997.

Albania and the Belgrade government remain bitter enemies because of Kosovo, Yugoslav's ethnic Albanian-majority southern province, now under international administration.

Serbia broke off diplomatic relations with Albania at the start of NATO's bombing campaign against Yugoslavia last year.

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