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Serbia: Opposition Leader Asks U.S. To Impose Sanctions

Washington, 13 December 1996 (RFE/RL) - A Serb opposition leader at a hearing in the U.S. Congress yesterday urged the United States to impose limited sanctions against Serbia's ruling elite.

Serb Democratic Party vice president Miodrag Perisic called for "personal sanctions" against President Slobodan Milosevic and the inner circle of his chief ministers. He said Milosevic and other high officials have private assets and business interests in foreign countries that could be frozen by the international community.

Perisic was testifying before the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) about the political situation in Serbia.

Another witness, Obrad Kesic, an American media expert on the Balkans, said many of Milosevic' ministers are also heads of major commercial enterprises and often treat the business assets as their own. Kesic said the United States should target those businesses.

The witness panel included Serb independent trade union leader Branislav Canak and Veran Matic, chief editor of Radio B92. Matic outlined priorities for developing independent media and said the most pressing need is for an independent television station.

Canak said Serb workers are joining the street demonstrations, not because they support the opposition coalition, but because they are frustrated with Milosevic' regime and want to create a new Serbia.

U.S. Congressman Christopher Smith (R-New Jersey) said the U.S. Helsinki Commission has a new sense of optimism about Serbia's political future. But Smith, who presided over the hearing as CSCE chairman, said U.S. legislators also have a real concern that the Serb government might use force against the demonstrators.