U.S. says Eastern Europe vulnerable to Y2K

A State Department official today pinpointed Eastern Europe as a potential high-risk area for Year 2000 problems.

The official, John O'Keefe, special representative for the Year 2000 problem, said the "fragile" power grid in Eastern Europe could be a source of Year 2000-related problems in that region.

O'Keefe testified today before two House subcommittees looking into the Year 2000 problem, and he said State officials are most concerned with regions of the world that will be experiencing strong winters when computers rollover to Jan. 1, 2000.

State officials on Tuesday released a series of reports that attempt to outline potential Year 2000 problems in foreign nations. But officials were reluctant to single out any region or country as posing the highest risks for Year 2000 problems. Critics, including Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah), chairman of the Senate Special Committee on the Year 2000 Technology Problem, said State's information contained "boilerplate language, making it difficult to discern the difference in Y2K readiness between well-prepared and unprepared countries."

The reports—included in a set of revised "consular information sheets," which offer international travelers advice and information ranging from a country's road conditions to its crime activity—cover more than 100 nations. However, none of the reports issues a travel warning encouraging U.S. citizens to avoid a nation because of Year 2000 problems.

O'Keefe also told congressmen that he believed State itself and U.S. missions abroad were well prepared for the Year 2000 problem. He said a recent worldwide data sharing test on Sept. 9 took place without problems. "Our own house is largely in order," he said.

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