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Albright Urges Albania To Take Lead

February 19, 2000

TIRANA, Albania (AP) _ U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright met with this country’s leaders today, saying the United States looked forward to Albania’s ``leading the way″ to a new and brighter future for Southeast Europe.

Albright also used her visit to Albania to warn ethnic Albanians in Kosovo against ethnically motivated attacks on the dwindling Serb population in the province.

``I urge Kosovars to rise above the temptation of retribution for reasons both moral and practical,″ she said. ``Kosovo has never been and should never be a monoethnic entity.″

The visit was Albright’s first to Albania since the end of the 78-day NATO air campaign against Yugoslavia in June. Albright arrived early today, after attending the inauguration Friday of Croatian President Stipe Mesic in Zagreb.

In meetings with Albanian President Rexhep Meidani and Prime Minister Ilir Meta, she praised their efforts to curb organized crime, saying future U.S. assistance to Albania would be earmarked for this cause.

``We want to support your efforts to build a professional and accountable police, an efficient and effective customs service and an impartial judiciary that defends the rights of citizens and upholds your laws,″ she said.

Albright also urged Albanians to use their influence to help and support the people of Kosovo in the hope that they be guided by ``an attitude of tolerance.″

Although a province of Yugoslavia’s dominant republic of Serbia, Kosovo is predominantly populated by ethnic Albanians who share a common language and culture with Albania.

Hashim Thaci, member of Kosovo’s interim administration and former political leader of the now disbanded Kosovo Liberation Army, arrived Friday night in Tirana, but no announcement has been made as to whether he will meet with Albright.

On the issue of a so-called Greater Albania, Albright said Albanians must not allow themselves to be used by others who would create conflict in the region by trying to ``redraw the map of Southeast Europe.″

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