UN Leader Decries Sanctions' Side-Effects UNITED NATIONS DIPLOMACY

Article excerpt

SERBIA is not alone in feeling the bite of economic sanctions in the Balkans these days. Neighbors such as Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary also feel it, and the resulting economic instability could even lead to a widening of the war.

So argues Stoyan Ganev, foreign minister of Bulgaria and current president of the United Nations General Assembly. He says he will lay out Bulgaria's plight in a speech Wednesday before the steering committee of the International Conference on the former Yugoslavia in Geneva.

Mr. Ganev says his nation deserves both technical help to implement such sanctions and compensation for damages. He says the UN sanctions against Serbia and Montenegro have cost Bulgaria $1.2 billion in interrupted trade, tourism, construction, and energy losses over the last six months. Most Bulgarian exports had moved by train across Serbia to Macedonia and West Europe.

"Everything now is blocked," he says. "From an economic point of view, we are an isolated island in the Balkans."

Ganev notes that Bulgaria also abides by UN sanctions against Libya and Iraq and has lost $3 billion just from the latter over the last few years. He says that some solution - be it World Bank loans or some kind of UN voluntary compensation fund - is vital.

He sees such action as a form of preventative diplomacy, an area where the UN hopes to become more active. Ganev argues that the world has a direct stake in the stability of eastern European nations such as his that are struggling to keep democratic rule and develop free market economies.

The party representing Bulgaria's sizeable Turkish minority, which faces particularly serious economic challenges, has shown signs of shifting its support from the ruling coalition to the socialists, a decision that helped to usher in the collapse of Bulgaria's first post-communist government in October. Unemployment, inflation, and foreign debt now stand at record highs in Bulgaria. The result, he says, could be increased ethnic tension.

Ganev, who also keeps a busy schedule in his largely ceremonial role as General Assembly president, hopes to fly back from Geneva in time to help wind up the Assembly's business before it recesses Friday. …