Cosic's Romania trip clouded by blockade

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

BUCHAREST (Reuter) - The Yugoslav President, Dobrica Cosic, discussed peace mediation prospects with Romania's leader, Ion Iliescu, yesterday, but a Serbian blockade on the River Danube overshadowed their meeting.

As Mr Iliescu and Mr Cosic spoke rosily of their two countries' traditional friendship, the Romanian Foreign Ministry bluntly told Belgrade to end the blockade of a vital dam near Gruia, 250 miles (400km) west of Bucharest.

The Romanian leader said Mr Cosic's visit was a 'positive sign of the wish of the two neighbouring countries. . .to contribute to the search for political solutions to the Yugoslav conflict'. He reiterated that Romania opposed military intervention in Yugoslavia.

'Military interventions may expand the conflict. There is the danger of it spreading in the Balkans,' Mr Iliescu said.

A dozen Serbian oil barges and two tugboats have blockaded a key stretch of the Danube below a strategic dam on Romania's western frontier for the past two days in protest at Romanian enforcement of the United Nations trade embargo against Belgrade. The embargo was imposed last May on rump Yugoslavia, now reduced to just Serbia and Montenegro, because of its involvement in the Bosnian civil war.

Mr Iliescu said Romania had not applied the UN sanctions with pleasure and had lost up to dollars 7bn (pounds 4.9bn) in revenues, but Bucharest would respect the UN Security Council.

Mr Cosic said after the talks that Romania had shown understanding towards Belgrade.

The two country's transport ministers met to discuss the river blockade but there was no clear sign of a solution.