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Belgrade says it will pay its way around sanctions

BELGRADE, Jun 23, 2000 -- (Reuters) Yugoslavia said on Thursday it would pay its way around the European Union's latest planned financial sanctions.

"There are no embargoes, there is only a price. Believe me, I am talking from personal experience and after eight years of sanctions," Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Nikola Sainovic told a news conference.

He was referring to the EU's latest bid to target its penalties against Serbia more effectively and put pressure on the elite surrounding Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

A "white list" of companies able to trade with EU members is due to be published at the end of this month.

Those on the list will have to prove their "ability to withhold revenues from the targeted governments, those of Yugoslavia and Serbia", according to rules drawn up by the EU's executive body, the European Commission.

Sainovic poured scorn on the project, which has been criticized by many Belgrade-based EU diplomats as unworkable and bad for potential dissident firms, which would thus be exposed.

"Who in France can sign a statement saying no taxes will be paid to the state? Tax evasion is heresy in their own countries. They know it is impossible," Sainovic said.

"The decree is just a political pamphlet designed to create more divisions in our country."

The EU said firms wishing to continue business would have to prove that their monthly deals did not exceed 100,000 euro and that business was not done in the banking and financial services, energy and fuel supply, transport, petrol, iron, steel and production or trade in military or police equipment.

Milosevic's domestic critics, including the G17 group of dissident economists and other professionals said the plan amounted to a trade embargo that would strengthen Milosevic.

After a decade of embargoes imposed over its role in the bloody disintegration of Socialist Yugoslavia, Belgrade has turned to Russia, China, Middle East and Africa, swapping its farm produce and construction services for fuel and natural gas.

But despite official embargoes, some Western companies still quietly do business with Serbia.

Sainovic said he was confident the EU's effort, planned to come into effect on June 30, would be a flop.

"Trade will go on. It is unnatural to expect profit-minded companies not to work. They have worked all along, even under previous sanctions and will continue to work," Sainovic said.



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