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Yugoslavia suffers energy shortages

By
NESHO DJURIC

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- When the citizens of Yugoslavia discuss power struggles these days, they're not referring to bureaucratic wrangling.

Energy shortages have forced the capital to join the rest of Yugoslavia in regular electricity outages.

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The power cuts leave millions in the dark for up to eight hours at a time as they struggle to lead normal lives.

The shortages began Wednesay for Belgrade's 1.5 million residents when a major coal-fired power plant outside the capital suffered a failure that threatened a nationwide outage through a chain reaction in the electric grid.

A Belgrade electric company manager said Friday on a radio station that Yugoslavia's 22.8 million citizens can expect improvement in the power supply only when rains raise the water level of the rivers.

After months of drought, precipitation would make it possible for hydro-electric plants to generate more current.

A coal-fired power plant near Belgrade went into trial period production earlier this month, five months behind schedule.

When the Obrenovac power plant starts full operation later this year, it should help ease the power crisis -- at least in eastern Yugoslavia. The country has only one nuclear power plant.

The Belgrade electricity company Friday released timetables showing when specific sections of the city will lose power, but newspapers, radio and television offered conflicting information on the blackouts, further confusing residents trying to organize their lives according to the availability of power.

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Belgrade suffered daily eight-hour blackouts for about two months late last year.

Yugoslavia has a $20 billion foreign debt and badly needs foreign exchange to repay Western creditors. It cannot afford to pay more dollars to import more crude for oil-fired power plants.

The government has also contributed to the problems by delaying economic austerity measures.

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