BELGRADE A leading Serbian intellectual and opponent of the regime of Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic has said that western sanctions are destroying the lives of academics in Serbia.
Marija Bogdanovic, a sociologist and former dean of the Belgrade faculty of philosophy, warned: "Soon people are really going to starve." She said many academics were struggling for money, adding that: "Without being able to buy books, their whole lives will be destroyed."
Many Serbian academics claim that sanctions have impoverished them intellectually and materially. According to Belgrade atomic physicist Milan Kurepa, the average salary for university professors and professional scientists is about Pounds 65 a month.
Dr Kurepa said sanctions have denied academics the resources they need, while the banning of cultural and scientific exchanges has isolated them from new ideas and stimuli.
The academics argue that the policy has played into the hands of the Yugoslav president by driving abroad talented intellectuals and depriving students of the opportunity to gain a broader outlook through spending time in the West.
Dr Kurepa said he believes Mr Milosevic deliberately set out to destroy his country's intellectual class. He believes academics should have been exempted from the United Nations sanctions policy.
United Nations sanctions were introduced against Yugoslavia in 1992. A raft of economic and commercial bans were put in place under UN Security Council Resolution 757 passed in May 1992.
The most biting suspended "scientific and technical cooperation, cultural exchanges and visits involving persons or groups officially sponsored by or representing the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia".
Dr Kurepa said there were problems in obtaining scientific journals, which could not be mailed because they weighed more than 100 grams. Serbian scientists had to have journals sent to Hungary and drive across the border to collect them, he said.
The British government is Europe's most hardline on sanctions, believing only basic humanitarian aid should go to Serbia and that sanctions must remain in place until Mr Milosevic falls.