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Tuesday, July 13, 1999 Published at 04:57 GMT 05:57 UK

World: Europe

Spotlight on rebuilding Kosovo

Latest reports say damage to infrastructure was lighter than expected

Finance ministers from the world's leading industrialised nations are meeting in Brussels for the first formal international conference to discuss the reconstruction of Kosovo.

Kosovo: Special Report
The G-7 ministers will discuss, among other issues, the question of how realistic it is to boost the economy of the region without helping Serbia.

The European Union says it will put up about half-a-billion dollars in aid and the World Bank has said it may commit $60m. However, no overall figure has been worked out because damage reports are still being compiled.

A senior World Bank official, Rory O'Sullivan, who has just returned from an initial assessment, said the damage to Kosovo's infrastructure was not as heavy as previously believed. He said electricity, telephones and water were working in many of Kosovo's villages.

The Americans and the British insist that Yugolsav President Slobodan Milosevic must be toppled before Serbia is rebuilt.

The BBC's Michael Voss travels to the town of Pec to examine how much work needs to be done
But economists at the World Bank say in the long term it will be impossible to bring prosperity to the region if what they call a black hole remains in the middle of it.

The European Union has held a series of meetings on the issue of the reconstruction of Kosovo, including one with US President Bill Clinton last month.

BBC correspondent Jonathan Webb says the meeting was an attempt to pave the way for the conference of all potential donors that will take place later in the month.

The World Bank is adamant that the money used in Kosovo and surrounding nations must not simply be lifted from other aid projects.

But EU finance ministers are making it equally plain that their development budgets cannot be broken.

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