YU's neighbours divided on sanctions

ZAGREB, Jan 24, 2000 -- (Reuters) Leaders of seven countries bordering Yugoslavia ended a summit on Saturday apparently united on the need for Western aid for the region but divided on whether to ease sanctions against Yugoslavia.

The informal summit in the spa resort brought together the premiers of Bulgaria, Albania, Macedonia, Romania, Hungary, Croatia and Bosnia with senior European Union and NATO officials.

There were no official documents, but it was clear the seven had agreed to press the West to start implementing a Balkan Stability Pact launched by the Big Powers last year to revive the troubled region after a decade of wars blamed mainly on Belgrade.

"For the first time we have demonstrated categorical solidarity over the funding of infrastructure projects in the region," Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov told reporters after the meeting.

"We are impatient because the idea of the Stability Pact has been formulated quite some time ago but its positive impact still remains in the future."

But the leaders were less united on the issue of the possible easing of sanctions against Belgrade.

Kostov was among those who advocated this, saying: "The sanctions are not properly focused. They should not harm ordinary people."

But Albanian premier Ilir Meta said such a move now would play into the hands of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

"It is true that sanctions are not very effective and create problems for neighboring countries," he told Reuters. "But an immediate easing of sanctions will be nonsense for the it will encourage Milosevic."

Meta said sanctions should be eased only in the case of Montenegro, Serbia's tiny pro-Western sister republic in what remains of Yugoslavia.

Solana to deliver summit's message to the West

The European Union's foreign policy chief Javier Solana told Reuters earlier that the meeting was formulating "a common denominator of suggestions and ideas on how to develop the region and the need of a profound transformation of Serbia."

"Serbia is a black hole in the region and if we want to have a region which can look into the future that hole has to be resolved," he said.

Solana is due to convey this "common denominator" to a meeting of EU foreign ministers on Monday which is expected to discuss a new carrot-and-stick strategy towards Belgrade.

This may include reviewing the ban on flights to Yugoslavia and other sanctions, diplomatic sources said.

"The question of sanctions always produces mixed feelings," Solana said. "Of course you want to damage the leaders who are not cooperative in the evolution of the region but you do not want to damage the people."

The reopening of the Danube for barge traffic was another common worry for the participants.

The West has ruled out aid in clearing the Danube as long as Milosevic remains in power, but EU sources said on Friday there could be a compromise if Belgrade agrees next week to a plan to build a temporary bridge at Serbia's second city Novi Sad, mainly funded by the EU. Novi Sad is controlled by parties opposed to Milosevic.

Milosevic has so far insisted the Danube would not be cleared until NATO allies agree to foot the whole bill for rebuilding the eight bridges over it destroyed by NATO.

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