Washington, 4 December 1996 (RFE/RL) - The United States expects the international community to censure the government of Serbia at a conference on the Bosnia peace process opening in London today.
U.S. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns says Serbia's Foreign Minister Milan Milutinovic is to be present representing his government and that it will be a good opportunity for North American and European countries to jointly express their opposition to the anti-democratic actions of President Slobodan Milosevic's government.
Burns said Tuesday he expects "U.S. and European partners will join forcefully to make clear to Foreign Minister Milutinovic...that the annulment of the (Nov. 17 municipal) elections is unacceptable to the international community."
More than 50 countries are participating in the two-day conference of the Bosnia Peace Implementation Council, including the United States, Russia, Bosnia, Croatia and a dozen major international aid organizations.
The U.S. delegation is headed by Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, and includes America's top negotiator for Bosnia Assistant Secretary of State John Kornblum.
Participants will review the year-old Bosnia peace process and set goals for implementing civilian provisions of the Dayton Peace Accords for the next two years.
The U.S. State Department says war crimes and the return of refugees are high on the London agenda.
But the unrest in Serbia and growing opposition to Milosevic, one of the signers of the Dayton Accords, are also expected to figure prominently in the conference proceedings.
Burns said the United States has been talking with its allies to make sure the international community speaks and acts together in opposition to the Belgrade regime's actions.
He said one of the things the United States is making clear to its Western partners is that it would not be right at this time to grant any kind of trade privileges to Serbia, to increase economic cooperation, or even to continue usual political contacts.
"Now is not the time to do business as usual with Belgrade. We need to send a stiff and clear message to Belgrade that its ability to have a normal relationship...with us in the West is fundamentally compromised with this type of behavior," said Burns.
He also said unequivocally that U.S. unilateral sanctions against Serbia would continue, spelling out in detail the consequences.
Burns said the United States will continue to refuse to exchange ambassadors with Serbia, maintaining only lower level diplomatic relations.
But more importantly, Burns said the United States will not extend any kind of economic benefits to Serbia and will not support Serbian membership in any of the international organizations it would like to join, including the United Nations.
Burns also repeated a warning he made earlier this week that the United States reserves the right to ask the United Nations Security Council to reimpose trade sanctions against Serbia.
Those sanctions were lifted in January after Serbia co-signed the Dayton Peace Accords.
Burns said the United States has not yet made the request to the U.N. but is putting the Serbian government on notice that such a step is possible.
Pointing out that Serbia's economy is in ruins and its population in despair, Burns said the Dayton Accords provide at least some peace and stability to the country and that it is in Serbia's interest to promote them. He said the United States expects Milosevic or anyone else heading the Belgrade government to observe the Dayton pact.