YU blocking efforts to clear debris from Danube

BUCHAREST, Aug 14, 2000 -- (AFP) Romanian Foreign Minister Petre Roman Sunday accused Yugoslav authorities of blocking an operation that would remove debris from the Danube river left over from last year's NATO bombing.

Roman made his comments prior to joining the Slovak marathon swimmer Martin Strel on a portion of his trip down the entire 2,860 kilometers (1,770 mile) length of the Danube.

Roman was to join Strel Monday in Calarasi in southeastern Romania to promote freedom of shipping.

He said the river could be cleared "in two or three weeks, as soon as Yugoslav authorities authorize it."

"By continuing to block these operations, the Serbs are only widening the division separating them from the international community," Roman said.

He said the European Union has already released EUR 20 million (USD 18,150,000) to clear the Danube of debris.

He said Romania had already lost a lot of money since shipping on a large portion of the Danube downstream from Yugoslavia was interrupted during the Kosovo war.

Roman, who is running for president in November, said he was joining Strel's swim to "promote Romania's national interests." He declined to say how long he would last, but said he was "a good swimmer."

Strel is on what organizers call the "Marathon Swim of the Millennium," from Donaueschingen, Germany, where the river rises, to Sulina, where it empties into the Black Sea.

He has already covered 2,410 kilometers of the distance, and plans to reach Sulina August 20.

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