Romania boycott praised by Hurd

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DOUGLAS HURD, in pursuance of the 'peaceful pressures' favoured by Britain in the Yugoslav crisis, yesterday made clear that Romania would be judged by its performance in keeping up the sanctions effort which forms a central plank in Britain's non-interventionist policy.

The Foreign Secretary, on his first visit to Serbia's north-eastern neighbour, said he was 'impressed with the way Romania has among its neighbours taken the lead' in implementing the sanctions imposed by the United Nations against Serbia. But, he pointed out, Romania was only doing its 'duty as a member of the UN'. He complimented Romania's leaders on their 'good judgement - because those of us who want to stop the fighting have to maximise on economic and peaceful pressures'.

In response to requests for compensation for the damage done to the Romanian economy, he said it was up to international financial institutions to take this into account when considering Romania's needs. He also hinted that official Romanian figures that the effort had cost the country pounds 4.5bn were exaggerated. 'The figures need to be documented. It is not a good idea to pluck a figure out of the air,' he said.

Mr Hurd was speaking after talks with President Ion Iliescu. Earlier Mr Hurd - the first British Foreign Secretary to visit Romania since Geoffrey Howe in 1985 - gave a speech to a joint session of parliament where he made it clear that, should Romania continue to improve its performance, it would be among those who could count on membership of the European Community.

Britain had 'long supported Community membership for the Central Europeans as soon as you are ready,' he told deputies. These included the extreme nationalist Vadim Tudor, leader of the Greater Romania Party, which advocates 'radical continuity' with the regime of the executed dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu, and on which Mr Iliescu's government depends for parliamentary support.

Mr Hurd made it clear, however, that the West expected Romania to bring the remnants of Ceausescu's dreaded Securitate under control. 'I know that you are considering parliamentary oversight of the security services,' he said. 'We are following this with close interest.'

Romania, desperate to be accepted as a serious contender for Europe, was the first country on the Danube to meet UN standards for implementation of sanctions against the rump Yugoslavia. Diplomats say privately the reason for Romania's effectiveness was also a negative one: while others had difficulty controlling leaks in the sanctions regime, 'the way of central control here persists that much more', one said. They added that the pounds 4.5bn damage figure, which would amount to some 10 per cent of Romania's GNP, had been arrived at by each government department making a loose and undocumented estimate and the totals being added together. The real figure was probably a quarter of that, they said.

Mr Hurd also saw members of the opposition and signed a joint declaration on political and economic co-operation.

Today he takes his mission to neighbouring Bulgaria, which was a month slower than Romania in implementing sanctions.