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Monday, June 28, 1999 Published at 03:32 GMT 04:32 UK


Reconstruction race hots up in Balkans

The post-war reconstruction of Kosovo and the rest of Yugoslavia is provoking rivalry between European countries eager to have influence in the Balkans and secure major stakes in potentially lucrative contracts.

Russian planners are already busy with major projects to rebuild Yugoslavia's crippled infrastructure.

Itar-Tass news agency reported that Yugoslavia had confirmed a purchase order for Russian equipment worth around 150 million dollars to repair its electric power system.

Leading Russian engineers, architects and planners visited Belgrade last week to draw up reconstruction projects for the Yugoslav capital and the country's second city Novi Sad, where key buildings, bridges and installations were destroyed in Nato air raids.

Konstantin Zatulin, an aide to Moscow mayor Yuriy Luzhkov, said the Moscow government had decided to finance the construction of a new rail-road bridge in Novi Sad, opposition-run Serbian Studio B TV reported.

Zatulin also said Russian experts were involved in plans to rebuild the Yugoslav Drama Theatre, the Foreign Ministry building and the Serbian government building in Belgrade, as well as a TV relay station on Mt Avala.

According to a preliminary estimate by Yugoslav economists, the Nato air strikes caused damage worth some 29.6 billion dollars, not counting damage to military installations, residential areas in Kosovo and the ecological impact.

Economist Mladjan Dinkic, quoted by the Yugoslav state news agency Tanjug, said Yugoslavia would need immediate financial aid of 1.17 billion dollars to help refugees, repair the electricity and heating systems, rebuild homes, repair key bridges and overpasses and launch social welfare programmes.

Up to two years will be needed to rebuild the main road from the Hungarian border to the southern Serbian town of Nis, according to Serbian Chamber of Commerce Chairman Momir Pavlicevic, quoted by the Serbian news agency Beta.

The project will involve rebuilding bridges near Velika Plana and over the Velika Morava river.

Russia and Italy, like UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, have said aid for Serbia should not be linked to the question of whether Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic remains in power.

At the G8 summit in Cologne this month, Italian Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema argued that the international community must help the Serbian people.

He said a way had to be found to provide such aid "without consolidating a regime which isn't to our liking," the Italian news agency Ansa reported.

The Federal Association of German Industry (BDI) has demanded that German firms get an adequate share in the Balkan reconstruction.

BDI managing director Ludolf von Wartenberg, quoted by the German news agency ddpADN, said Germany had provided one-third of the funds for rebuilding Bosnia-Hercegovina after the war there, but had won no more than eight percent of the contracts.

But some of Nato's partners in eastern Europe have complained they are not getting a fair deal in the reconstruction projects, Hungarian radio said in a report on a recent Nato meeting in Budapest.

"We are not at all satisfied with the role given to us in the reconstruction," Ukrainian Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk told the meeting.

Hungary's Ambassador to Nato, Andras Simonyi, said he found such criticisms levelled against Nato to be " natural" .

Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov put his country's losses due to the war at more than 150 million dollars, but said the real cost was much higher, the Bulgarian news agency BTA reported.

Macedonia is another of the Nato partner states which has complained about Western policy on reconstruction.

Macedonian Defence Minister Nikola Kljusev, who attended the Nato meeting in Budapest, regretted the European Commission' s "last-minute" decision to locate the agency for regional reconstruction in the Kosovo capital Pristina, instead of the Macedonian capital Skopje.

Kljusev, quoted by a Macedonian news agency, said the war against Yugoslavia had cost Macedonia 172 million dollars a month.

"It is an insult to offer us credits for the damage we suffered.

We want the damage to be paid for," he said.

Source: BBC Monitoring Caversham 27 Jun 99

BBC Monitoring (http://www.monitor.bbc.co.uk), based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.



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