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U.S. Military to Provide Refugee Aid

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 1, 1999 – The United States is gearing up to help the international relief effort in the Balkans, Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon said March 31.

President Clinton has allocated an additional $50 million to address the refugee crisis. Half will be provided in military supplies and services and the remainder will come from the Emergency Refugee and Migration Account, White House officials announced.

Defense Secretary William S. Cohen has instructed U.S. European Command to provide aircraft and air traffic control assets to support airlift operations, Bacon said.

"The Defense Department stands ready to provide whatever assistance we can," Bacon said. What and how much the military will contribute will become clear as humanitarian assistance officials determine what is needed, he added.

While there has been no call for military personnel to help in the relief effort, he said, "If there is something we can do, some special value added we can bring that would assist the operation, I'm sure that we would look favorably on that request. We stand ready to provide aid when and if requested."

International relief organizations are good at dealing with just such situations, and they have been in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Albania for some time so they know the territory and the problems, Bacon pointed out. "The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees has said that its primary needs right now are shelter, logistics support and medical supplies," he said.

A U.S. European Command assessment team is in Albania looking at airports, roads, ports and other facilities needed to conduct relief efforts, Bacon noted. The team will help U.N. and other nongovernmental organizations coordinate relief operations.

The Pentagon has pinpointed 250,000 humanitarian daily rations, several hundred tents and other supplies that can be sent to the region quickly, Bacon said.

"We just learned today that the Air Force is in the process of taking down all its tents at Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia because the airmen are moving into dormitories," he said. "Therefore, these tents could possibly be available for use in Albania or the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia."

The United States has already pre-positioned enough food in the Balkans to feed 400,000 people for six months, Bacon noted. "That food is in a number of locations, some in Kosovo, some in Montenegro and some actually in Belgrade," he said. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and other organizations will work out how to get that food to the proper people, he added.

"Right now," Bacon said, "there is enough food in Albania to feed approximately 100,000 people for several weeks." This food was pre-positioned with the expectation that it might soon be needed, he said.

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