CEOL - EU remains cautious over fuel aid

BRUSSELS, Dec 8, 1999 -- (Reuters) The European Union welcomed news on Tuesday that 14 EU tankers had reached the Yugoslav town of Nis with fuel to help the Serbian opposition, but said it would not be content until the deliveries were completed.

"We welcome the progress, but we will only be satisfied when the fuel has actually been delivered to its destination and when we can continue the deliveries," said Gunnar Wiegand, a spokesman for the EU's executive European Commission.

The trucks finally reached Nis nearly two weeks after they set out from neighboring Macedonia. They had been held up at the Yugoslav border since then, having customs checks.

The EU had announced last Friday that it was abandoning the first attempt to deliver the fuel under a program called Energy for Democracy which is intended to help the opposition and further isolate Yugosolav President Slobodan Milosevic.

But the lorries had not left the border and the authorities suddenly cleared them for entry, although they will still have to go through further customs checks in Nis.

Wiegand said he did not know why the trucks had suddenly been cleared at the border.

"I can only speculate - either they finally accepted that all the necessary documents were produced or they realized that their position might backfire politically," he told a news conference.

The EU also hopes to take heating oil to the town of Pirot under the first delivery, consisting on 350 tons. It hopes to deliver 25,000 tons this winter and has said it will extend the project to other towns if it is successful.

The EU has blamed Milosevic for the delays and EU officials have suggested this could further dent his popularity in Serbia.

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