Balkan countries to help Danube pollution cleanup

SARAJEVO, Feb 17, 2000 -- (Reuters) Seven Balkan nations agreed on Wednesday to assist countries hit by a cyanide spill polluting the Danube basin.

"Here is a task for the countries from this region in the future, mainly to have disaster relief capacity for themselves here in this region," Ian Eliasson, chairman of a working group on security issues under the Balkans Stability Pact, told a news conference.

A cyanide spill at a Romanian gold plant on January 31 has spread into Hungary's Tisza River and the Danube in Yugoslavia, killing thousands of fish and threatening further damage as it moves downriver.

The European Union-sponsored Balkans Stability Pact was set up last year to integrate and develop the countries of southeastern Europe following the end of the Kosovo conflict.

Balkan officials had been discussing security for two days in Sarajevo under the auspices of the pact, which includes Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Macedonia and Romania.

Participants in the meeting in Sarajevo endorsed a plan to create regional disaster relief centers. Earlier, participants had adopted an initiative to fight corruption in the region.

Eliasson said a selection of project proposals submitted to the pact so far would be completed by mid-March and then presented to a donors conference scheduled for March 29-30 in Brussels.

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