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Yugoslavia: Belgrade Seeks Better Ties With U.S.

  • Andrew Tully

Goran Svilanovic, Yugoslavia's foreign minister, while on an official visit to the U.S., said his government is working hard to restore good relations with the United States and other Western nations. RFE/RL's correspondent Andrew F. Tully reports.

Washington, 8 January 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic said Friday at a news conference in Washington that Belgrade wants to put behind it the recent differences it has had with members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO -- particularly the U.S.

Svilanovic noted that before the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, Washington and Serbia had good relations for more than a century, and were allies during two world wars. He said the main topic of his conversations during his two-day visit to Washington was how the two nations can resume good relations.

According to Svilanovic, the "number one priority" of the government of President Vojeslav Kostunica is to strengthen Yugoslavia's democracy and restructure its economy. And he made it clear that his country is not merely seeking aid from the American government.

The foreign minister said that during his talks on Thursday at the State Department, one American official mentioned that Washington might be willing to provide up to $100 million in government aid to Belgrade, in several installments, under certain conditions. But the foreign minister said he responded that Yugoslavia would be better served by investment by a large American company like Goodyear, the tire manufacturer.

"I said, 'Look, if Goodyear invests in some of the enterprises in Serbia, it would certainly start with $200 million. And therefore what we really rely on is direct investment."

Svilanovic also said at the news conference that his government believes that Montenegro should not become independent of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, as Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Macedonia already have done. He said that option would only further delay political and economic stability that is sought by both Yugoslavia and the rest of the world.

"Going along this road will prolong the political crisis in the region and will keep our people busy with questions of statehood and nationhood, etc. Political stability and economic development of the region will be postponed indefinitely until these issues are resolved."

Svilanovic said that if there is no further disintegration of Yugoslavia, the nations in the region can now "return to real issues" -- as the foreign minister put it -- of rebuilding their economies, strengthening their democracies and integrating into Europe.

During the news conference, Svilanovic was asked how Belgrade plans to deal with Slobodan Milosevic, who was defeated as president in elections last fall. He suggested two alternatives. One is to have Yugoslav courts try the suspects using evidence gathered for the war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

"Or another one, which is a precedent taking place in [the African nation of] Rwanda, by the same court actually. And this is proceedings by the tribunal on the territory of the affected country."

But Svilanovic rejected extraditing Milosevic to The Hague for trial.

The Yugoslav foreign minister was in Washington for two days. On Thursday he met with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. On Friday he had meetings with aides to Albright's designated successor, Colin Powell, and with leaders in Congress.

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