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World: Kosovo Aid And Russian Economy Tackled On Second Day Of G-7 Summit

Cologne, 19 June 1999 (RFE/RL) -- Western aid for Kosovo reconstruction and ways to help the Russian economy dominated discussions on the second day of the three-day Group of Seven (G-7) plus Russia summit in Cologne, Germany.

Leaders from the seven leading Western democracies (the U.S., Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Canada) and Russia discussed initial aid amounts to help rebuild Kosovo in the aftermath of NATO's 78-day bombing campaign against Yugoslavia.

The European Union (EU) has put forward a plan to contribute about $500 million a year, for three years, in reconstruction aid. The fund would be separate from a larger Balkans economic package, which would be used to help surrounding countries such as Albania, Macedonia and Bulgaria.

A spokesman (Sadaaki Numata) for the Japanese prime minister said his country will pledge about $200 million in assistance for Kosovo. He said it would be broken down in several ways:

"It's broken down into $40 million in assistance directly to help the refugees through international organizations and $60 million to be provided over a period of two years into tranches of $30 million each to Albania and Macedonia to help alleviate the burden on their part of receiving the refugees. Another $100 million for the rehabilitation of Kosovo and to help the return of the refugees through, for example, the United Nations Human Security Fund."

Officials in Cologne said the final amounts and how the money would be used will be determined at an international donors' conference to be held later this month or next month. U.S. and British officials are said to agree that the European contribution will be larger than the U.S. contribution as a way of demonstrating Europe's resolve to solve problems on its own continent.

Our correspondent reports that there is widespread agreement on the need for and basic size of such a fund, but that the G-7 nations disagree with Russia on whether a Serbia led by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic will qualify for any assistance.

A spokesman (Alistair Campbell) for British Prime Minister Tony Blair said in strong words today that no money will be available for Serbia as long as Milosevic is in power. He said the wording of a G-8 communique (the G-7 plus Russia) tomorrow will say that "without the necessary political and economic reform steps, Serbia ... will not be included" in any aid package.

Correspondents say the communique will not call directly for Milosevic's removal from power for Serbia to receive aid, but the British spokesman said that was the way his government will interpret the wording.

Russia opposes moves by the G-7 to isolate Serbia and exclude it from reconstruction aid. Russian Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin said last night that the West cannot make a country of 10 million people (Serbia) pay for the mistakes of one man.

However, Russia has little influence in the reconstruction debate since it won't be contributing directly to the West's aid funds for Kosovo. Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Yakushkin told RFE/RL today at the Cologne summit that Russia will be providing its own assistance to Serbia:

"Serbia will be helped, for example, by Moscow city. The city already made an initiative. And Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, who is a major player in our political arena, already made an initiative to help Serbia restore what has been destroyed and President Yeltsin has approved that initiative."

Yakushkin said he thought the West's policy of ignoring Serbia while Milosevic is in power is "insane."

Also on the agenda at today's talks were Western efforts to help reform the Russian economy.

Russian Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin told the summit that the Russian economy is improving and urged them to treat Russia as an equal member of the G-8.

Emphasizing Russia's desire to be treated as an equal partner, Stepashin today rejected a French proposal to include in the final G-8 communique a document offering to fully integrate Russia into the world economy and to set a program for Russia's prosperity.

Russian comments indicated that they thought the document was condescending.

Stepashin today also met with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to discuss restructuring some of Russia's debts to the Paris Club of creditors. Germany is one of the largest holders of Russian and Soviet-era debt.

Russian President Boris Yeltsin is to fly to Cologne tomorrow for bilateral talks with U.S. President Bill Clinton and Germany's Chancellor Schroeder and to participate in a joint G-8 forum. Yeltsin is expected to focus discussions on yesterday's Helsinki agreement on the participation of Russian soldiers in KFOR and on U.S.-Russian bilateral relations.

Yakushkin said Yeltsin is pleased with the agreement.

Yakushkin also said that the Clinton-Yeltsin talks will be important for setting the tone of relations between the countries. Russian-U.S. relations sank to their lowest level since the end of the Cold War during NATO's bombing campaign against Yugoslavia.
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    Mark Baker

    Mark Baker is a freelance journalist and travel writer based in Prague. He has written guidebooks and articles for Lonely Planet, Frommer’s, and Fodor’s, and his articles have also appeared in National Geographic Traveler and The Wall Street Journal, among other publications.