US Plays Incredible Double
Game On Oil Sales To Yugoslavia
By Christopher Lockwood in Washington
and TIM KING in Luxembourg
The Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald
From Ross Dowe <>
The European Union banned oil sales to Yugoslavia on Monday, but in a development that will be regarded as scandalous in European capitals the United States confirmed it had no plans to follow suit.
This means that while it is now illegal for any EU country to export oil to Slobodan Milosevic, it remains perfectly legal for American companies to continue to fuel the Serb war machine.
In fact, they already have. On April 10, a full two weeks into the conflict, the American firm Texaco shipped about 65,000 barrels of oil products into Bar, the Montenegrin port that now serves as Yugoslavia's only supply route for fuel.
Other routes, including a pipeline from Hungary or the land routes from Croatia and Bulgaria, have effectively been cut off.
The disclosure that American firms have been selling oil to the dictator while America pilots have been risking their lives to bomb oil refineries and storage facilities is likely to undercut American efforts to moralise to the rest of the world.
Texaco has now stated it will no longer sell oil to Yugoslavia. But hundreds of other companies have yet to do the same.
A US State Department official confirmed there were no plans to introduce the same sort of legislation that EU foreign ministers adopted on Monday in Luxembourg, which renders it a crime to sell oil to Yugoslavia.
The embargo will be implemented on Friday.
NATO's communique on Kosovo, published at the weekend, stops short of calling on all NATO members to adopt legal instruments to halt the flow of oil.
What NATO is committed to do, however, is to interrupt the supply of oil, wherever it comes from, by means of a "visit and search" regime that will board and inspect ships heading for Bar.
Since international law says ships can only be halted in pursuit of a United Nations sanctions resolution, it is extremely uncertain what will happen if a Russian, or indeed an American, oil tanker declines to be searched.
Russia has refused to commit to compliance with an oil embargo so the potential for conflict is high. If Russian merchant ships were challenged on the high seas, it might decide to give them military escorts.
Further economic restrictions have been placed on Yugoslavia and it emerged yesterday that the European Commission would halt a promised package of economic assistance for Montenegro - lest it fell into "the wrong hands." - The Telegraph, London
Oiling a black market
New York: NATO's planned oil embargo of Yugoslavia has already created a black market in which Serb-backed buyers are paying up to a 50 per cent premium for petrol and other refined products, according to European oil traders. The traders said on Monday that Lukoil, one of the biggest Russian suppliers, has extended new lines of credit to Yugoslavia.
How much fuel the Russians will be able or willing to sell to Yugoslavia remains unclear. But the embargo, which is expected to be enforced from this week, means that deliveries by sea may stop. - The New York Times