Six Balkan countries sign $145mln deal - World Bank

SARAJEVO, Feb 11, 2000 -- (Reuters) Six Balkan countries signed on Thursday a $145 million agreement to reduce costs of trade and transport and to combat smuggling at their borders, the World Bank said in a statement on Thursday.

Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia and Romania signed a memorandum of understanding in the Macedonian capital of Skopje to set up a committee to deal with the World Bank's trade and transportation program in Southeast Europe, it said.

"The program will represent the first regionally linked project in support of the Stability Pact," the bank said in the statement issued in Skopje. It was referring to the European Union-sponsored economic and political treaty for the Balkans.

The program will be financed with a $38 million loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and a $30 million credit from the International Development Agency (IDA), said the statement, released also in Sarajevo.

The U.S. government would provide a $9 million grant in addition to some $50 million in grants from the Europen Union in the 2000-2003 period, it said, adding that the six countries would jointly contribute further $18 million for the program.

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