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Call for government action to prevent repeat of industry's Bosnia and Kuwait failures UK firms 'must not lose out in Kosovo'

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CONSULTANTS are calling on the government to draw up a contingency plan to ensure that British companies play a part in the reconstruction of Kosovo.

The move comes as Western countries begin talks on formulating a 'Marshall Plan' for the next Millennium designed to rebuild and develop south-eastern Europe.

The British Consultants Bureau (BCB) fears that UK firms could be left behind in the race to rehabilitate the war-torn country following an end to the conflict.

It is already in talks with the government's department for international development and British Trade International in an effort to ensure UK contractors and consultants gain maximum benefit from reconstruction work in Kosovo.

In addition, the BCB has compiled a list of member firms that are interested in working in the region.

The EU estimates that the cost of rebuilding Kosovo add up to more than £20 billion.

BCB chairman Colin Adams said it was important British firms were not pushed aside by international rivals through poor planning.

'It is important to ensure we have a strategy that is clear to everyone, and not just hold a seminar about opportunities.

'The experience in Kuwait, where we were expected to win a lot of work, turned out to be thoroughly disappointing for UK companies.

'And Bosnia has tended to favour, perhaps not unnaturally, some of its neighbours,' said Mr Adams.

British firms held high hopes of winning reconstruction contracts in Bosnia following the signing of the Dayton Agreement in December 1995. War damage to the country was estimated at about £50 billion.

But nearly four years on, only a handful of consultants have been successful in securing contracts.

Mario Donnetti, international director of Mott MacDonald, said: 'It would be nice to see an all-British effort in trying to reconstruct this war-torn country - British contractors and suppliers getting together to build bridges across the Danube.

'In Bosnia, unfortunately, all the pledges were not realised and we did not have the necessary aid to do justice to the reconstruction that was needed.'

Peter May, principal at consultant May Associates, agrees that the reconstruction of Bosnia has not been as lucrative for British firms as had been hoped.

He said: 'Most companies that went out to Bosnia soon discovered there was not much in it for them. A lot of the design and construction was being done by Bosnian companies.'