- BELGRADE (Reuters) - Russia reacted angrily on Friday to what it called
NATO's "policy of threats" over a planned Western oil embargo
of Yugoslavia, making clear it would be guided only by its own national
- As the European Union's embargo came
into effect, Montenegro -- Serbia's tiny partner in the two-republic Yugoslav
federation -- pleaded to be exempted from the sanctions, saying they would
destroy its battered economy.
- Russia's leadership has been incensed
by U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen's comment that vessels from any
country shipping oil to Serbia would face "serious consequences"
including military force by NATO warships.
- "Regarding those hints of threats
I can say that Russia will act according to its decisions," Foreign
Minister Igor Ivanov told reporters after a meeting with his Canadian
counterpart Lloyd Axworthy in Moscow.
- "I don't consider it reasonable
to slide into a policy of threats, which would lead nowhere," he said.
- Cohen said in Washington on Thursday
that he believed any oil deliveries to Yugoslavia would fall into the
category of armed hostilities, demanding a stiff NATO response. "I
believe there should be an interdiction of the supplies coming and I believe
that force should always be an option."
- The Russian Defense Ministry echoed Ivanov's
- "Russia is not a country that can
be threatened, as Cohen is doing," said Col.-Gen. Leonid Ivashov,
who heads the Defense Ministry's international cooperation department.
"If there is a political decision (to go on with the embargo), Russia
will defend its interests," said Ivashov, an outspoken critic of
- Russia has already made clear it does
not consider the oil embargo applicable to countries which are not members
of NATO or the European Union.
- Asked about the ban on Friday, European
Commission spokesman Nigel Gardner said: "It's in place."
- The EU's ban, endorsed by EU ministers
in Luxembourg on Monday, is intended to complement NATO's efforts to isolate
Yugoslavia and prevent the supply of fuel to President Slobodan Milosevic's
- East European countries seeking EU membership,
including three of Yugoslavia's neighbors, Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania,
have also joined the ban.
- In the Montenegrin capital Podgorica,
the republic's economy minister, Vojin Djukanovic, said the new sanctions
could destroy his country and invited foreign observers to check up on
its promise to keep fuel out of Serbian and Yugoslav army hands. "An
embargo would be the end of Montenegro," Djukanovic said. "More
destabilization could lead to civil war."
- Montenegro's pro-Western government has
acted practically like an independent state since the NATO bombing began.
- NATO bombers rewarded its anti-Belgrade
stance by sparing all non-military targets but with the Yugoslav 2nd Army
spread across the republic, it could not be let off the hook completely.
- Western allies now have the same dilemma
with the embargo.
- They do not want to throttle Montenegro's
economy but are even more intent that no oil should reach Serbia or the
- The problem is more acute since Yugoslavia's
only important port, Bar, is on Montenegro's Adriatic coast.
- Djukanovic promised that Bar, which NATO
has refrained from attacking, would not become a haven for tankers circumventing
the blockade to fuel Milosevic's war efforts in Kosovo and his defiance
of NATO bombing.
- "When Milosevic resigns or is sacked
then maybe our ports will become Yugoslav ports but at the moment they
are just for Montenegro," he said.