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Yugoslavia: U.S. Freezes Belgrade's Assets

Washington, 11 June 1998 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. President Bill Clinton has signed an order freezing assets of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in the United States because of Belgrade's treatment of Kosova's ethnic Albanians.

The executive order, announced by the White House on Wednesday, affects Serbia and tiny Montenegro which together make up rump Yugoslavia. The president's directive also bars new U.S. investments.

The move implements an earlier decision by the United States to punish Belgrade for its crackdown on ethnic Albanians. Other sanctions imposed in March included a ban on exports of arms and prohibiting the U.S. government to provide Yugoslavia with investment credits.

In his order, Clinton faulted Belgrade for "promoting ethnic conflict and human suffering."

The American president said by its action the Yugoslav government threatens to "destabilize countries of the region and to disrupt progress in Bosnia and Herzegovina in implementing the Dayton peace agreement."

Clinton said the situation constitutes "an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States."

The U.S. measures are similar to those imposed on Yugoslavia by the European Union in protest over the Kosova crackdown that has left hundreds of people dead and sent thousands of refugees into neighboring Albania.

State Department spokesman James Rubin said the situation in the largely ethnic Albanian province of Kosova "is deteriorating and poses a threat to the region."

Rubin told reporters violence now appears to be spreading in Kosova. He said the dialogue between ethnic Albanians and Serbs is currently on hold pending an improved security environment, particularly an end to Belgrade's military operations.

The State Department spokesman said that as a result of the worsening situation, NATO officials are now engaged in an accelerated planning process about possible military options.

He said NATO defense ministers, including U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen, scheduled a meeting in Brussels today (Thursday) to discuss the situation.

Rubin said given the deteriorating situation, NATO ambassadors already are discussing "a wide range of options" which will be reviewed by the defense ministers.

At the same time, Rubin said the United States is trying to push through a resolution at the U.N. Security Council that would permit the use of "all necessary means" to persuade Belgrade to end the crackdown.

Rubin said Washington expects such a resolution to get a message across Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic that he "should walk back from the brink."