NATO allies condemn cyberattack on Albania

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FILE PHOTO: Banners displaying the NATO logo are placed at the entrance of new NATO headquarters during the move to the new building

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - NATO allies on Thursday condemned a recent cyberattack against Albania that the governments in Washington and Tirana have blamed on Iran.

Albania cut diplomatic relations with Iran on Wednesday, when Prime Minister Edi Rama accused the Islamic Republic of committing the July attack and gave its diplomats 24 hours to close the embassy and leave the country.

In a rare video address, Rama said the cyberattack had "threatened to paralyse public services, erase digital systems and hack into state records, steal government intranet electronic communication and stir chaos and insecurity in the country."

Washington, Albania's closest ally, also blamed Iran and promised to "take further action to hold Iran accountable for actions that threaten the security of a U.S. ally."

Tehran condemned Tirana's decision to cut ties, describing the reasons for the move as baseless claims.

"We strongly condemn such malicious cyber activities designed to destabilise and harm the security of an ally, and disrupt the daily lives of citizens," the North Atlantic Council, grouping the representatives of NATO's 30 member states, said in a statement.

"NATO and allies support Albania in strengthening its cyber defence capabilities to withstand and repel such malicious cyber activities in the future," it added.

Relations between Iran and Albania have been tense since 2014, when Albania accepted some 3,000 members of the exiled opposition group People's Mujahideen Organization of Iran - also known by its Farsi name Mujahideen-e-Khalq - who have settled in a camp near Durres, the country's main port.

(Reporting by Sabine Siebold; Editing by Mark Potter)