Athens warns Tirana on 'arrests'

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The Independent Online
GREECE yesterday stepped up its diplomatic war of words against Albania, accusing it of cracking down on ethnic Greeks in the south and trying to scare the community into fleeing across the border.

The Greek Foreign Minister, Karolos Papoulias, issued a 'strong warning' to Albania to respect the Greek minority who were being arrested 'at this hour'. 'We consider these actions to be part of a general effort by the Albanian government to terrorise the (Greek) minority, to create panic and to make them flee from their homes.' Mr Papoulias said.

The outburst followed a statement by the US State Department, hotly contested by Greece, that there was 'no reliable evidence to indicate that the Albanian government is oppressing the Greek minority' in the south of the country, as Athens regularly claims.

Checks by reporters in Albania yesterday found that while a number of ethnic Greeks had been brought in for questioning by the police, none had been arrested. The authorities did arrest six leading members of the ethnic Greek organisation Omonia last week, however, charging them with having links to the Greek secret service, of fomenting separatism and illegal possession of weapons.

The charges against the Omonia leaders relate to an attack last month in which two Albanian soldiers were killed by masked raiders who, according to the Albanians, wore Greek military uniforms and shouted in Greek.

Athens has vociferously denied any involvement in the incident and taken Tirana to task for even making the suggestion.

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