Greek fuel ending up in Yugoslavia

April 30, 1995|By New York Times News Service

VIENNA, Austria -- U.S. intelligence officials have determined that Greek oil companies are shipping thousands of barrels of fuel to Albania, and that most of it is smuggled into Yugoslavia in violation of international sanctions.

The volume of smuggling tripled in the first three months of this year, despite promises by Albania to control it, intelligence reports show. The reports were the focus of closed-door meetings last week of the sanctions committee of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the European Union.

What most concerns the diplomats is that the Serbs in Yugoslavia have abundant fuel just when a frayed cease-fire in Bosnia is to expire -- enough for the tanks to move, the planes to fly, the ships to sail.

The U.S. reports say the smuggling is providing Yugoslavia with almost half of its fuel; the rest comes from oil wells and refineries in northern Yugoslavia. The economic sanctions were imposed by the United Nations in retaliation for Yugoslavia's support of the Serbian military in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Another report last week by the sanctions committee indicated that the most blatant violator of sanctions after Albania is Macedonia. The report says 5,000 trucks crossed from Macedonia into Yugoslavia in February and March. One truck carried six tons of parts for a telephone exchange, another a ton of computers.

The Albanian representative to the European security organization, Zef Mazi, said on Friday that his government fully supported the sanctions and was doing its best to enforce them.

The Clinton administration is putting together measures to put pressure on Albania to deal with the problem, the State Department said.

One weapon is economic assistance, one diplomat suggested. Last year Albania received $16 million in economic aid from the United States.

The administration could invoke a law enacted last year that provides for a halt in assistance to countries that are not effectively enforcing the sanctions against Yugoslavia.

There is nothing illegal about selling fuel to Albania, but European and U.S. diplomats there and in other Balkan countries say the Greek companies must know that the fuel is being sent to Yugoslavia.

In March, Albania imported 9,000 more barrels a day than it needed for domestic consumption, one of the U.S. intelligence reports said. In January, the excess came to 3,645 barrels a day.

Greek companies have replaced Italian ones as the principal source of fuel, the intelligence reports show. But a Greek official, who declined to be identified, took issue with the reports, saying Italy, not Greece, was the main culprit.

The U.S. intelligence reports say Greek companies provided 59 percent of Albania's fuel imports last year and Italy provided 37 percent.

Washington has made repeated overtures to Greece to control the trade. The response has generally been that there is nothing illegal about selling fuel to Albania. That has also been the Italian response.

While U.S. and European officials concede this, they note that Greece is generally sympathetic to the Serbs, who, like the Greeks, are mostly Orthodox Christians.

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