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Yugoslavia: EU Approves Fuel Aid For Serb Towns Controlled By Opposition


Luxembourg, 11 October (RFE/RL) -- European Union foreign ministers today approved plans to send fuel aid to Serb communities controlled by opposition groups. The 15 EU ministers said in a statement they supported the "Energy for Democracy" plan. The southern cities of Nis and Pirot were to be the first to receive the aid. Both had been damaged by NATO air strikes. Despite the EU plan, key opposition leaders boycotted talks scheduled for today in Luxembourg with EU ministers. The opposition leaders decided to stay in Belgrade because they objected to the EU's insistence on the need to extradite Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and other officials to face trial at the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

Vladan Blatic, a leading opposition activist, said the cooperation with the tribunal was not a priority for the opposition. Blatic said the main tasks are to remove Milosevic from power, win the lifting of sanctions and defend Serbs and non-Albanians in Kosovo.

The tribunal has indicted several Serb officials, including Milosevic, for crimes against humanity.

Opposition leaders who did n-o-t fly to Luxembourg for the meeting included Vuk Draskovic and Zoran Djindjic. The German DPA news agency reports that those who did travel to the meeting included Vuk Obradovic of the Social Democratic party and Montenegrin Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic.

Some EU foreign ministers suggested that those who stayed away did so because of pressure from authorities in Belgrade.

In Yugoslavia, meanwhile, Milosevic today accused the Serbian opposition of trying to lead the country into a civil war. Making a rare public appearance to re-open a bombed-out railway station in the south of the country, Milosevic called opposition leaders "cowards" and said they are not people who will renew and develop the country.

Milosevic acknowledged that "life in Serbia is difficult." But he blamed the conditions on the fact that his government is rebuilding the country following NATO air strikes this spring with no help from abroad.
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