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Naval Mission Puts More Pressure on Serbia With PM-Yugoslavia, Bjt

July 13, 1992

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP) _ A Western flotilla monitoring ships off Yugoslavia’s coast may not help end the war in Bosnia. But it is a pointed reminder of international sanctions that are devastating the Yugoslav economy.

At a meeting of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, the United States and its European allies agreed Friday to station the ships outside Yugoslav waters.

The action followed reports of repeated violations of a U.N. embargo imposed on Belgrade on May 30 to pressure it to stop abeting violence in the former Yugoslav republics of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia.

The embargo is beginning to bleed an economy that already was in deep trouble because of the cost of financing federal army operations in Croatia and Bosnia. But despite the hardships, many Serbs remain defiant.

″The sanctions and the naval monitoring and everything, it’s biblical. David and Goliath,″ said psychologist Petar Brkic. ″In this case we are David.″

Yugoslavia’s only access to the sea is along the Montenegrin coastline on the Adriatic Sea. It is uncertain just what, or how much, has been getting into Yugoslavia from the coast. But the main port at Bar has virtually ceased functioning since the sanctions were imposed.

The foreign ships have no mandate to search vessels suspected of dodging the sanctions, only ask about their origin and cargo by radio.

But the patrols will likely have a psychological effect on Serbia, now alone with Montenegro in the new Yugoslavia. The ships’ presence is intended to signal that the sanctions will remain in force until Serbia is brought to heel.

Eight vessels - seven from NATO’s Mediterranean fleet plus a British frigate - were deployed to the Adriatic. The U.S. helicopter-carrier USS Iwo Jima and the destroyer Biddle, both under Sixth Fleet command, are already there to provide support for airlifts of food and medicine to Bosnia.

Since the sanctions were imposed, about 100,000 Yugoslav workers have been laid off or sent on leave, and the respected weekly Vreme suggested last week that up to 1 million workers could find their livelihoods in danger.

Some imported goods are becoming scarce, gasoline is rationed and industrial output is expected to drop 40 percent by year’s end.

Serbian leaders, who at first defiantly assured citizens the sanctions would not last long, now are taking measures to deal with the effects.

The Serbian Parliament this week adopted legislation giving the government broad authority to limit trade in certain goods, a possible prelude to widespread rationing.

Serbian Premier Radoman Bozovic admitted the sanctions had caused ″great disruptions and losses to the economy″ when he unveiled a series of measures to help offset the effects of the sanctions and hyperinflation.

The measures, introduced July 1, included a sharp cut in public spending and plans to reduce state-controlled salaries 40 percent in the next three months.

Prices of staples, utilities and transportation were frozen. The Yugoslav dinar was devalued by 84 percent, reducing the rate from 32 dinars to the dollar to 200 to the dollar.

It is unclear what has been getting into Yugoslavia from the coast, but a Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Serbian businesses were trying to smuggle in oil and other materials.

Last week, the independent Borba daily quoted Borivoje Petrovic, a Serbian parliament deputy from the governing Socialist Party of former Communists, as acknowledging that oil was coming in from Romania.

Some goods imported to Macedonia, another breakaway republic which borders Serbia to the south, reportedly are ending up in Serbia.

It is hard to tell to what extent sanctions are being broken along Yugoslavia’s eastern border with Romania and Bulgaria. Both insist they are complying, but say the loss of trade is a severe blow to their own struggling economies.

On June 9, Romania’s deputy transport minister, Valentin Mirescu, told The Associated Press that oil shipments to Serbia via the Danube River ″are still going on.″

But Romanian Premier Theodor Stolojan this week denied that Romania is violating the sanctions and said border controls were stepped up.