ROME, Nov 16, 1999 -- (Reuters) Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini called in remarks published on Monday for an easing of the economic sanctions imposed by Western powers on Yugoslavia.
"I think that the appeal launched in Belgrade by the leaders of the opposition in Serbia...for an easing of the economic embargo must not be left unanswered. It is necessary to move quickly to alleviate the humanitarian situation," Dini told Italian daily L'Unita.
The sanctions on Serbia, whose two oil refineries and power grid were seriously damaged by NATO's 11-week bombing campaign that ended in June, include an oil embargo and a flight ban.
In a bid to strengthen opposition to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, the European Union is launching the Energy for Democracy scheme - a program to help opposition-run towns cope with severe fuel shortages as winter approaches.
But Serbian groups backing the plan last week asked for municipalities controlled by the ruling Socialist Party to be included as well.
Dini said that only an easing of the embargo would "strengthen the opposition to Milosevic and increase his isolation".
"Often in the past (sanctions) have proved inefficient because they were not aimed at hitting the culprits but the entire population," Dini said.
Two weeks ago, the United States softened its stance, saying that while it opposed easing the sanctions, the holding of across-the-board "free and fair" elections would be enough to end most of them.
Dini said he discussed the matter a few days ago with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
"We think that the appeal of the Serbian opposition must be taken seriously and that it is necessary to move quickly to improve the humanitarian situation with effective measures, especially for what concerns heating fuels," he added.
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