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Italy moves to deport "undesirable' Albanians

Italy declared a national state of emergency Wednesday after being overwhelmed by more than 10,000 refugees from Albania in less than a week.

The emergency, which will remain in force until June 30, allows access to $36-million the government said it had earmarked to cover assistance to the refugees.

A special Cabinet meeting also decided that genuine refugees would be allowed to stay in Italy for no more than three months and said Albanians "deemed to be a danger to public security" would be forcibly repatriated.

Interior Minister Giorgio Napolitano said 289 "undesirables" already had been flown in three giant Chinook army helicopters from the southeastern port of Brindisi to Albania's capital, Tirana, where they were handed over to Albanian police.

He said the exodus had brought 10,619 people across the Adriatic in a ramshackle fleet of boats _ three times the number Italy had prepared to receive when the unrest erupted.

Albania, Europe's poorest country, has been rocked by unrest since the collapse in January of fraudulent investment schemes. The protests mushroomed this month into armed rebellion in the south, and chaos has spread across the country.