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BALKANS: ENVIRONMENTAL TEAM LEADER URGES CLEANUP AID

Greenwire, August 06, 1999
Copyright 1999 The National Journal Group, Inc.

"Common sense" suggests the international community should help Yugoslavia clean up its environmental problems, the head of a UN task force said yesterday. But he acknowledged that the decision would be a political one (UN release, Aug. 5).

Pekka Haavisto, the former Finnish environment minister and head of the UN Environment Program's Balkans Task Force (BTF), briefed reporters at UN headquarters in New York on the findings of his team's first 10-day mission in Yugoslavia (Greenwire, July 28). The team was formed to investigate environmental damage in the region in the wake of the recent war over Kosovo.

Haavisto "appeared uncomfortable" talking about the response that the US State Department had given to his request that the US provide environmental cleanup aid. Pres. Bill Clinton has insisted that Yugoslavia will receive no reconstruction aid until its pres., Slobodan Milosevic, steps down.

Haavisto said the US government plans to wait for the BTF's final report in September before deciding whether to provide environmental aid (Joe Lauria, Boston Globe, Aug. 6). But he added his view that such aid could be separated from broader reconstruction issues.

Haavisto also said the cleanup of soil, damaged industrial facilities and water resources would be "huge" operations that would take several years, if done properly. When asked how people's lives might be in danger from lingering pollution and inadequate cleanup, he said it was too early to say (UN release).

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