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Serbia: Belgrade Threatens To Ban Visas For U.S. Congressmen

Belgrade, 13 February 1997 (RFE/RL) - Serbia's government threatened to ban members of the U.S. Congress who have supported the Serbian pro-democracy movement, a move that U.S. diplomats said today could backfire on President Slobodan Milosevic.

The Foreign Ministry of Serb-dominated Yugoslavia has protested to the State Department against members of Congress who have taken part in pro-democracy rallies. It said it would refuse visas to Congressional delegations because its members, in the protest's words, "abused Yugoslav hospitality" by "meddling" in the country's internal affairs.

The U.S. Embassy said in a statement today that Yugoslavia, now made up of Serbia and tiny Montenegro, as the statement put it, "remains subject to (international) agreements guaranteeing free expression." It warned that refusing visas could only backfire against Yugoslavia.

Serbia's ruling Socialists said yesterday it is time for opposition protests to end now that opposition victories in local elections last November are being restored. But leaders of the opposition Zajedno (Together) coalition and allied students have vowed to continue protests until opposition members actually take their seats in local councils.