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Kosovo Battle Cost Yugoslavia $64B

Sunday, August 22, 1999; 7:31 p.m. EDT

LONDON (AP) -- The Kosovo conflict will cost Yugoslavia almost $64 billion and make it the poorest country in Europe, according to a report being published Monday.

The Economist Intelligence Unit said NATO's 11-week bombing campaign inflicted enormous damage on Yugoslavia's economy and infrastructure, and will cause the economy to shrink dramatically in the next few years.

Gross domestic product, the total value of goods and services produced by a nation, will drop by 40 percent this year and remain at levels far below those of a decade ago, the report said. Measured by that yardstick, Yugoslavia will sink below nearby Albania and become the poorest country in Europe, it said.

The report said it estimated the economic cost of the war by comparing average GDP rates that would have occurred without a war and the levels now forecast. Estimates of the future growth of the Yugoslav economy are based on the experience of other war-affected countries and other countries in the region, the report said.

The Economist Intelligence Unit is a research division associated with The Economist magazine.

The Kosovo conflict also adversely affected the region's environment. On Sunday, U.N. environmental experts arrived in Yugoslavia for a second fact-finding mission to assess pollution levels and other environmental damage caused by the 78-day NATO bombing.

A total of 10 experts from eight European countries are to focus on damage to Yugoslavia's main waterways, particularly the Danube River, mission spokesman Robert Bisset told The Associated Press.

After their first visit in July, the U.N. team identified environmental ``hotspots'' -- sites where mercury, asbestos and other hazardous substances accidentally leaked from industrial facilities during the bombing.

A full U.N. report on the environmental damage is expected in September.

Copyright 1999 The Associated Press

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