Italy's Dini says EU reviewing Serb sanctions

ROME, Feb 5, 2000 -- (Reuters) Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini said on Friday the European Union was reviewing sanctions against Yugoslavia affecting ordinary people and urged Serb opposition parties to stay united.

He issued a statement after a meeting with Vladan Batic, leader of the Yugoslav opposition umbrella group Alliance for Change.

Dini welcomed a January 10 decision by the Serb opposition to adopt a common platform, saying it would help speed up democratization in the Balkan region.

"(Dini) noted that Italy agrees on the need to support the efforts of the opposition - which must remain united and develop a common program for the future democratization of Serbia," the statement said.

"(He also told Batic) that a process of review of the measures that affect the civil population was under way within the European Union and was backed by Italy."

Serbia has been subject to various sanctions since 1992, first for its role in the 1992-1995 war in neighboring Bosnia and later over Belgrade's repression in Kosovo.

The sanctions keep Yugoslavia, which consists of Serbia and Montenegro, away from financial bodies and foreign capital markets, ban investments, flights and crude oil deliveries.

The statement said Batic told Dini the swift suspension of the sanctions on flights and crude oil was a top priority for economically-battered Serbia and would help opposition efforts.

Dini said the opposition could play an important role in the democratization of Yugoslavia.

"The international community expects that the forces of change in Serbia work together concretely in the direction of reforms to create a more liberal and democratic economic and social system," he said.

Italy has repeatedly called for the sanctions against ordinary Serbs, especially in the field of air transport and the supply of natural gas, to be lifted.