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Serb Mayor Demands EU Oil Shipment

November 30, 1999

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP) _ The mayor of an opposition-run Serbian city desperately in need of heating oil today protested the government’s blockade of a European Union oil shipment.

Tomislav Panajotovic, mayor of the southern Serbian city of Pirot, threatened to go on a hunger strike if the shipment is not released soon, the independent Beta news agency reported.

Pirot and Nis, another city run by opponents of President Slobodan Milosevic, are awaiting 350 tons of heating oil stalled by Serbian customs authorities.

Much of Yugoslavia’s oil reserves were destroyed earlier this year during the NATO bombing campaign to force Milosevic into a peace agreement over Kosovo.

Some 14 EU oil trucks remained stuck at the southern border with Macedonia for a sixth day, allegedly over legal irregularities.

The shipment is part of the EU ``energy for democracy″ pilot project that is meant to strengthen opposition leaders struggling to oust the Yugoslav president, whom they accuse of isolating and impoverishing the country.

While the blockage drew protests at home and abroad, the Serbian government has criticized the shipment as a political maneuver.

Panajotovic said oil reserves in Pirot were running out and heating had to be cut off in large parts of the city despite freezing temperatures. Reserves for the city’s other districts were sufficient for only a couple more days, he said.

``We did everything to secure the needed quantities of heating oil, but because of the evil government policies Pirot is without heating,″ Panajotovic said.

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