News round-up

7 - 14 April 1997

Six killed in Albania as violence &looting worsens

Six more people have died in Albania as anarchy continues to break out in parts of the nation. Three died in the port of Vlore, including a woman killed by a young man after she rejected his request to marry her daughter. Two people died in Fier from severe burns received after the gas station they were trying to steal from exploded. Another died in Berat.

The head of the Albanian Army's Chemical Weapons Department announced that highly dangerous chemical weapons and radioactive products were stolen when the Army depots were looted. More than 200 people have died and at least 700 have been injured since the rebellion in Albania began, and more than 13,000 Albanians have fled to Italy.

Walesa says Russia would not block Poland's entry to NATO

The former Polish leader Lech Walesa said in an interview for the Argentinian newspaper La Nacion that no Russian leader would risk using force to prevent Poland from entering NATO. When asked whether he thought Poland's prospects for joining NATO would be at risk if Boris Yeltsin were replaced, Mr Walesa said that any Russian leader would know that NATO and Poland do not want to invade Russia, and that Russia herself is in no condition to invade anyone else either.

Dismissing Moscow's opposition to Poland's plan as proof of a lack of democratic experience, he said any threats Russia made on the matter were probably idle ones. He added that Eastern European countries should join NATO not because they can realistically expect to be defended in case of war, but rather because it establishes them firmly within a peaceful group of allies.

Polish President to meet Pope

Polish President Alexander Kwasniewski will meet the Pope this week to discuss strained relations arising from the refusal by his ex-communist colleagues to ratify a concordat treaty with The Vatican. Before leaving Warsaw he said he thought conditions had changed enough for opponents of the concordat to reconsider their views.

While in Italy, Mr Kwasniewski also intends to seek assurances from the Italian Government over the expansion of NATO and the European Union (EU). Polish newspapers have widely publicised statements by Italy's Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini that Moscow should have a say over the expansion of the western military alliance. Mr Kwasniewski wants Poland's entry to be unconditional, regardless of Russia's strong opposition.

Poland concerned about Russia-Belarus Treaty

Poland has reacted with mixed caution and concern to the scaled-down Union Treaty between Russia and Belarus. The Foreign Ministry says the agreement poses no immediate threat to Poland, but added that it is in Poland's interests that Belarus should maintain its independence and sovereignty. Bronislaw Geremek, Head of Poland's Parliament's Foreign Policy Committee, expressed concern that the new union could pose security risks for the rest of Europe.

Chirac promises French support for Czech's EU hopes

French President Jacques Chirac is pledging French support for the Czech Republic's' integration into the EU and NATO, but he also called on the Republic to share his vision of a united Europe with a common security system and a soul. He said on his visit to the Czech Republic that he was addressing a nation that would tomorrow be a partner in the great family of Europe.

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