CEOL - US helps Bulgarian towns hit by Kosovo crisis

SOFIA, Dec 10, 1999 -- (AFP) The United States on Thursday launched a four million dollar aid program for Bulgarian towns along the River Danube hit by the economic fallout of the Kosovo crisis.

"We recognize that municipalities on the Danube River bordering Romania have suffered greatly as a result of the Kosovo conflict," said US ambassador to Sofia Richard Miles, speaking in the town of Pleven.

The Bulgarian industry ministry says direct and indirect costs of the Kosovo crisis on neighboring Bulgaria amount to $162 million.

Towns on the Danube itself were particularly effected because 70 percent of their exports to Western Europe are usually transported along the river, which has been blocked since NATO bombs destroyed bridges in Serbia.

The U.S. aid program will help the training of staff, economic development planning and to promote small and medium sized businesses, as well as to strengthen civil society, a U.S. embassy statement said.

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