Sanctions against Milosevic backfire

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The Independent Online

Attempts to direct sanctions against Serbia's political élite have run into fresh trouble, with at least eight Yugoslav firms asking to be removed from a list of those with whom Europe will trade.

Attempts to direct sanctions against Serbia's political élite have run into fresh trouble, with at least eight Yugoslav firms asking to be removed from a list of those with whom Europe will trade.

Faced with victimisation from the Belgrade authorities. the companies have said they want to be left off the so-called "white list" of approved traders, putting in question the future of the sanctions regime.

The developments have also thrown into doubt plans, expected to be discussed by the European Commission today, to extend the list of 190 firms on the "white list". A further 52 companies that were to have been added were being contacted individually to ensure they still want to take part.

The move marks another pyrrhic victory for Slobodan Milosevic, the Serb President, whose government has denied import licences to "white listed" companies while praising their rivals for patriotism. Although economically damaging to Yugoslavia the tactic has proven to be astute by turning western pressure to Mr Milosevic's political advantage.

The companies have been identified as those without close links to the regime but Toma Simonovic, head of Pitura, a firm that asked to be taken off the list, told a meeting at the Belgrade Chamber of Commerce that inclusion "is an insult because it qualifies us as Nato collaborators".

The latest problems have strengthened the hand of those arguing for a switch of policy towards greater engagement with Serb civil society.

While the visa ban on Mr Milosevic's close allies is regarded as a success, France's Foreign Minister, Hubert Vedrine, has led calls for a review of sanctions, arguing that "they have not achieved their political objective".

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