Serbia says still supplying power to Kosovo

BELGRADE, Jan 20, 2000 -- (Reuters) Serbia's power company denied on Wednesday that it had stopped delivering electricity to Kosovo, now under United Nations protection, the official Tanjug news agency reported.

It quoted Petar Kostic, the deputy general manager of Elektroprivreda Srbije (EPS), as saying it had merely reduced supplies as it was not being paid.

"(EPS) has no intention of delivering endless quantities of electricity free of charge, while it is at the same time importing it and paying for it in hard currency to secure stable supplies to other consumers," Kostic said.

EPS said it had been forced to cut its previous deliveries to Kosovo of 75 million kilowatt hours (kWh) a day by more than half. The Tanjug report did not say when the reduction had taken place.

Newspapers in Serbia last week quoted a representative of the United Nations mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) accusing EPS of halting electricity deliveries to the province, causing widespread power cuts.

Kostic said ethnic Albanians who took over servicing Kosovan power plants under U.N. supervision after NATO-led peacekeeping troops replaced Serb security forces in the province in June were incompetent to do the work.

"Whenever they cause an outage of a local plant, Albanians who work in EPS plants in Kosovo often take more electricity than agreed from the rest of the system. Therefore, EPS has been forced to restrict the capacity to 30 megawatts," Kostic said.

UNMIK spokeswoman Nadia Younes said earlier this week in the Kosovo provincial capital Pristina that domestically produced and imported electricity for Kosovo amounted to only 205 megawatts, or just above a third of its requirements.

EPS's Kostic said following last week's fire at the Kosovo B power plant, when one of the two generating units was disabled, the remaining block was generating only 2.4 million kWh compared with its average daily requirement of 8.0 million kWh. Another EPS senior official, Aca Markovic, said Kosovo power plants could produce annually more than four billion kWh of electricity.

"In the June-December period 1999, when non-Albanian workers of EPS were banished, production stood at only 700 million kWh," Markovic was quoted by Tanjug as saying.

NATO's three-month bombing of Yugoslavia last year did not do great damage to the system in Kosovo but the air campaign had prevented EPS from conducting its usual overhaul of the system and preparing it for the winter, Markovic said.

[URL may be different next day if article is archived]