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U.S. Increasing Pressure On Serbia's Milosevic

  • Sonia Winter

Washington, May 21 (RFE/RL) -- The United States is increasing pressure on Serbia's president Slobodan Milosevic to comply with provisions of the Dayton peace accords on bringing war criminals to justice.

U.S. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns says senior State Department officials discussed the issue with the Serb leadership in Belgrade Monday, as well as over the weekend.

Burns said Monday: "we made very clear to president Milosevic that he is responsible for ensuring that the Bosnian Serbs comply in all respects with the Dayton accords, including the apprehension and prosecution of war criminals."

Burns says part of the message, that was "transmitted loud and clear," is that the U.S. may re-impose economic sanctions if Serbia's compliance with Dayton war crimes provisions is not satisfactory.

United Nations sanctions against Serbia were lifted last November, but the U.S. kept in place its own trade embargo against Serbia until after the Dayton peace accords were signed in December.

Burns says the U.S. has told Milosevic that Serbia is being closely watched and if compliance remains poor without hope of improvement, "the U.S. reserves the right to return some of the sanctions previously placed on Serbia."

Milosevic responded with an affirmation that he wants Bosnian Serbs to comply with Dayton but did not specify what he would do to realize this aim, Burns says.

He noted that, what U.S. officials call an "outer wall" of sanctions remains in place �- that is a ban on Serb membership in world organizations and on loans from international financial institutions until Serbia cooperates fully with the International War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague.

The next formal review of Serbia's compliance with the Dayton accords, as well as implementation of its provisions by Bosnia and Croatia, is to take place at a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Berlin in early June, marking six months since the peace accords were signed in Dayton, in the U.S. state of Ohio.

Christopher plans to attend the meeting and Burns says is likely to have talks with the Balkan leaders while he is in Europe. He last met with Milosevic in Geneva in March.

The impetus for Burns' latest criticism of the Belgrade leadership were weekend negotiations in the Bosnian Serb capital of Pale between Bosnian Serb leader and indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic and the European Union's High representative Carl Bildt.

During the talks, Karadzic agreed to delegate some of his powers and take no part in public life but refused to document this in a formal, written agreement.

Burns said the U.S. is disappointed that Karadzic did not resign and is looking for confirmation that a transfer of power will take place in the Republika Srpska.

But that has not yet happened, he said, adding that Karadzic has merely delegated some powers to so-called vice president Biljana Plavsic, whose views are close to his own. Burns called the move "a modest step forward."

He said the U.S. hopes she will act in a way that is more consistent with the Dayton peace accords.

He said emphatically that the U.S. "will not work with Mr. Karadzic or General Ratko Mladic," that "they are indicted war criminals who should be apprehended and brought to the Hague for prosecution."

"There is no going back in this process...we're going to go forward," Burns said.