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Tuesday, May 4, 1999 Published at 07:50 GMT 08:50 UK

UK Politics

Blair to back frontline states

Mr Blair met refugees at a Macedonian camp on Monday

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair is on Tuesday expected to acknowledge the economic impact that Nato's sustained air campaign is having on Yugoslavia's neighbours.

Kosovo: Special Report
On the second and final leg of his whistle-stop visit to the Balkans, Mr Blair is set to tell the Romanian parliament that the UK will give its backing to the 'frontline states' which border Yugoslavia.

Nato's air attacks have blocked the river Danube, which is one of the Balkans' most vital trade arteries

In his speech to the Romanian parliament, the UK prime minister will pledge his country's support to the frontline states, to ease their passage into Nato and the European Union.

"I want Romania to be on a fast track to Nato membership," he is expected to say on the last day of his two-day visit to the region.

BBC Correspondent Paul Wood adds that the Romanians are anxious to join Nato as soon as possible. For its part, the alliance wants to make sure that Romania, a source of smuggled fuel for Yugoslavia during the last sanctions regime, does not again allow oil supplies to get through to Serbia, our correspondent says.


Before addressing the parliament, Mr Blair was set to meet his Romanian counterpart, Radu Vassile, to reinforce his message.

[ image: Mr Blair also met British troops in Skopje]
Mr Blair also met British troops in Skopje
He will then go on to the parliament building to stress: "I come to you in support and above all in solidarity.

"This is a crisis for us in Nato but it's an even greater one for Romania and other countries on the front line."

He will add that in 1945, Germany was still under Hitler but within 10 years had re-established democracy, joined Nato and was in at the start of the EU.

"Serbia can rejoin the world community too but that prospect will only become a reality when dictatorship is cast out and real democracy comes to Yugoslavia," Mr Blair will say.

Brits in Balkans
A democratic Serbia would have a future in Europe, he will add.

But that means that Nato must first prevail in the Kosovo crisis and the Serbs must stop their killing in the province, with an international force on the ground to supervise the return of the refugees.

"These demands are not excessive, they must be met," he will tell the Romanian parliament.

Aid boost

Mr Blair flew into Bucharest, the Romanian capital, on Monday night after spending the day in neighbouring Macedonia touring a refugee camp and visiting a Kosovo border crossing.

Bridget Kendall reports on the scenes that greeted Mr Blair in the refugee camps
He will return to the UK later on Tuesday after a trip aimed at boosting support for Nato's campaign against Yugoslavia and bolstering the morale of frontline states.

Mr Blair also went to see for himself the plight of those Kosovo Albanians who have been displaced from their homes.

On Monday he crossed into no-man's land on the Kosovo border after promising to double aid to the area to some £40m, and take in more refugees.

Mr Blair spoke to refugees on the border, and said afterwards: "We must redouble our commitment to these people".

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