Albania, Kosovo say ready to temporarily house Afghan refugees

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Albanian Prime Minister and leader of the Socialist Party Edi Rama speaks at a rally celebrating the party's election victory, at Skanderbeg Square in Tirana, Albania April 27, 2021. REUTERS/Florion Goga

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PRISTINA, Aug 15 (Reuters) - Albania and Kosovohave accepted a U.S. request to temporarily take in Afghan refugees seeking visas to enter the United States, the country two countries said on Sunday.

In Tirana, Prime Minister Edi Rama Rama said U.S. President Joe Biden's administration had asked fellow NATO member Albania to assess whether it could serve as a transit country for a number of Afghan refugees whose final destination is the United States.

"We will not say 'No', not just because our great allies ask us to, but because we are Albania," Rama said on Facebook.

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Sources had told Reuters that Biden's administration had held discussions with such countries as Kosovo and Albania about protecting U.S.-affiliated Afghans from Taliban reprisals until they completed the process of approval of their U.S. visas.

In Kosovo, President Vjosa Osmani said the government had been in contact with the U.S. authorities about housing Afghan refugees since mid-July.

"Without any hesitation and ... conditioning I gave my consent to that humanitarian operation," Osmani said on her Facebook account.

Osmani said Afghan refugees would be vetted by the U.S. security authorities, and added they would stay in Kosovo until their documentation for U.S. immigration visas was arranged.

Hundreds of U.S. troops are still stationed in Kosovo as peacekeepers more than two decades after the 1998-99 war with the then-Yugoslav security forces.

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Reporting by Fatos Bytyci; Editing by Aleksandar Vasovic and Alison Williams

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