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Yugoslavia: Election Could Resolve Stalemate At UN

Yugoslavia's opposition parties have expressed a desire to bring their country closer to Europe if they are successful in Sunday's elections. The elections may also lead to a new chapter in the country's relations with the United Nations, where it has been suspended from General Assembly activities for eight years. UN correspondent Robert McMahon reports.

United Nations, 21 September 2000 (RFE/RL) -- The United Nations may be one of the last public places where the red star flag of Marshal Tito's former Yugoslavia continues to fly.

The flag is no longer used by any of the countries of former Yugoslavia, including the rump federal republic of Yugoslavia, and its presence at the UN is a very visible sign of the stalemate between Yugoslavia and the UN. Belgrade has not been allowed to participate as a formal member in the UN General Assembly or in Security Council affairs since 1992.

UN members have never approved rump Yugoslavia's request to represent Yugoslavia as successor state following the disintegration of the confederation in the early 1990s and several wars.

The issue received new attention this summer after U.S. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke noted the flag discrepancy and Yugoslavia's growing isolation from the organization during a Security Council session. He indicated the United States would take steps to clear up the issue, with Yugoslavia's expulsion being a possibility. But the United States has so far made no such moves, while it awaits the results of this weekend's elections.

In the event Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is turned out of office in the vote this Sunday (Sept 24), his opponents have indicated they would seek to restore Yugoslavia to full UN membership.

U.S Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told reporters at UN headquarters last week that she hoped a future democratic Yugoslavia, including Montenegro, would reapply for membership.

"We have felt for some time that the current occupant of the Yugoslav seat at the United Nations is not the FRY [that is, the current Yugoslav Federal Republic, made up of Serbia and Montenegro] which is what they theoretically represent, and Tito's flag is still out in front of the United Nations. The other states that were part of Yugoslavia have reapplied for membership as themselves." While Yugoslavia has faded from the scene at the United Nations, the other former Yugoslav republics are moving up in the ranks of members. Slovenia has already served on the Security Council. Croatia's new reformist government has received praise at the organization for its efforts to seek reconciliation in Bosnia-Herzegovina. And Bosnia itself, still under close observation by the UN and NATO, has begun to contribute to peacekeeping forces.

Yugoslavia's representative to the United Nations, Vladislav Jovanovic, is permitted on occasion to attend Security Council sessions and to hold press briefings at UN headquarters. He said at a briefing this week that his country's suspended status was the result of what he called "political action by some Western countries." "The fact is FRY is not a new country, unlike former Yugoslav republics which decided to secede, and we don't need to apply for membership in any international organizations. It is out of the question that Yugoslavia can be forced to do it."

If Milosevic wins his re-election bid, there are no signs that his government would move to resolve the membership issue.