Serb authorities laud easing of U.N. sanctions as 'important first step'

September 25, 1994|By Dusko Doder | Dusko Doder,Contributing Writer

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- Serbian authorities hailed the U.N. Security Council's decision to ease sanctions against Serbian-dominated Yugoslavia, but their former Bosnian Serb proteges retaliated against U.N. forces.

Yugoslav Foreign Minister Vladislav Jovanovic described Friday's partial lifting of sanctions, including reopening the Belgrade airport to international flights and re-establishing sports and cultural ties, as an "important first step."

"This is a psychological watershed," Mr. Jovanovic said in a radio interview. "It is a prelude to a quicker solution for the [Bosnian] crisis."

The Security Council's action was to reward Serbia for the apparent cutoff of military supplies to the Bosnia Serbs, their former proxies in a now-shelved campaign to carve out a Greater Serbia in the Balkans.

The Bosnian Serbs said Serbia's action was a betrayal. They harassed U.N. peacekeepers, holding up clearance for U.N. aid convoys and suspending flight clearances for U.N. helicopters until tomorrow. The aid airlift into Sarajevo was also suspended.

The easing of sanctions will have little more than a psychological impact on the average Serb, however. The resumption of international flights will affect only the elite who can afford them. The resumption of sea links between Yugoslavia and Italy is also likely to benefit the rich only.

Most important -- in this soccer-mad country -- is the lifting of the sporting exchange ban. The renowned Red Brigade soccer team, the 1991 European and world champion, will once again be able to play internationally.

On Belgrade's main Prince Michael Street yesterday, several people welcomed what they saw as the ending of 2 1/2 years of isolation that began when Bosnia and Croatia seceded from the Yugoslavia federation and fighting erupted.

The joy might be premature. The easing of sanctions -- initially for 100 days -- begins only after U.N. officials receive a full report from monitors on the border between Bosnia and Serbia on whether Belgrade is honoring its pledge to cut off military supplies to Bosnian Serbs.

Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic will now press for a complete lifting of U.N. sanctions, particularly the ban on economic and trading links with the world. He has the backing of Russia, Serbia's traditional ally, on the Security Council.

However, the United States and other nations trying to broker a peace agreement in Bosnia probably will ask for further cooperation in isolating the Bosnian Serbs.

Even if sanctions are eventually lifted, economists estimate that it will take years for the economy of the rump Yugoslavia, made up of Serbia and Montenegro, to regain even 1989 levels.

The currency has now been stabilized. People have enough to eat. Widespread smuggling of goods has ensured an acceptable standard of living despite unemployment of more than 50 percent.

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