EUROPE UPDATE

UN aid convoy reaches Bosnian siege town

A United Nations aid convoy from Sarajevo reached Gorazde yesterday for the first time since Serb forces lifted a five-month siege of the eastern Bosnian town a week ago.

It was the third attempt since Monday by representatives of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to reach the Muslim town devastated by shelling.

UNHCR sources said the convoy crossed the last Serbian roadblocks and headed into Gorazde at 1:45 p.m. yesterday.

The only other relief column to get to the town of as many as 70,000 last month found people starving and the hospital operating without anesthetics or a trained surgeon.

The United Nations' top peacekeeping official, Marrack Goulding, arrived yesterday in embattled Sarajevo to oversee an agreement to curb the fighting by putting heavy weapons under UN supervision.

The developments, especially Mr. Goulding's arrival, raised hopes among UN officials that peacekeeping measures in war-torn Bosnia-Herzegovina might finally begin to have an effect.

Leaders of a Geneva peace conference, jointly sponsored by the European Community and the UN, said early progress should not be expected but pledged they would work until peace is established. Petrol-starved Serbs flock to Bulgarian pumps

Petrol-starved Serbian motorists formed long lines at filling stations on the Bulgarian side of the border on Wednesday to try to beat UN trade sanctions against Yugoslavia.

Customs officials said they suspected the Serbs of taking advantage of a loophole in Bulgaria's sanctions enforcement to buy petrol at 35 cents a liter and sell it for $1.50 a liter on the black market in Yugoslavia, where rationing is in force.

"We cannot stop Serbs who are crossing the border with full car tanks," one official told Reuters.

"Usually they pump the petrol out of the cars into cans near the border in Yugoslavia and come back to refuel. In one day one driver can smuggle up to 200 litres."

Bulgarian officials told Reuters that limiting the freedom of movement of Yugoslav visitors would exceed the terms of the UN sanctions, imposed against Serbia and Montenegro in June in protest against the fighting in Bosnia-Herzegovina. After riots, Germans question refugee payments

Germany's emotional asylum debate turned bitter this week as politicians angrily accused each other of cynicism and incompetence after 10 days of fire-bombings and attacks on foreigners by self-styled neo-Nazi groups.

Germany's Interior Ministry announced that a record 273,942 foreigners sought asylum in Germany in the first eight months of 1992, up 94 percent from the same period last year.

With rightist violence growing in the east, Germans are taking a closer look at hundreds of thousands of refugees living on the public dole. No one is talking about tossing civilians back into war zones, but consensus is growing that Germany does not need to shelter Africans, Eastern Europeans, and Asians from poverty.

Even the opposition Social Democrats, long the firm champions of Germany's liberal asylum laws, say it's time for a change - and for cuts in the refugees' handouts.

"They can no longer get the same federal welfare benefits as Germans," said Hermann Heinemann, the head of social services in North Rhine-Westphalia state and a Social Democrat. German economic data show persistent weakness

Western Germany's economy is hovering dangerously close to recession, official data issued yesterday showed.

West German gross domestic product fell a real, seasonally and calendar-adjusted 0.5 percent in second quarter 1992 from the first quarter, but showed a real year-on-year rise of 0.6 percent, the Federal Statistics Office said.

Factors weighing on the economy include the highest domestic interest rates since World War II, imposed by the German Bundesbank to control inflation, and the resulting strength of the deutsche mark against the dollar, which is hitting exports.

Economics Minister Jurgen Mollemann said the risks to the economy had increased, but he cautioned against talk of an economic freefall.

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