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Yugoslavia: U.S. To Continue Aid

The United States has decided to continue providing economic aid to Yugoslavia. Secretary of State Colin Powell made the decision to certify to the U.S. Congress that Yugoslavia is eligible for such aid following the arrest of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Our correspondent Frank T. Csongos reports.

Washington, 3 April 2001 (RFE/RL) -- The United States says Yugoslavia is eligible for continued American economic aid following the arrest in Belgrade of former President Slobodan Milosevic on corruption charges.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said on 2 April that the determination means the U.S. can begin to turn over $50 million in assistance to Belgrade. He said the decision to certify Yugoslavia as eligible for aid was made by Secretary of State Colin Powell. The U.S. Congress had set a 31 March deadline on the certification process.

"Today, on 2 April, the Secretary of State conveyed his decision to Congress on the issue of the certification of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia for the purposes of our aid to programs there. The secretary determined that Yugoslavia had met the criteria of Section 594 of the Foreign Operations Export Financing and Related Programs Appropriation Act of 2001. In making this determination, however, the secretary qualified the certification."

Boucher said that unless Belgrade continues to cooperate with the UN war crimes tribunal at The Hague, Washington will not help sponsor an international conference aimed at raising money for Yugoslavia's battered economy. The $50 million aid -- part of a $100 million overall package -- would run out by Oct. 1, the start of the new fiscal year. The U.S. administration would need to determine the level of assistance, if any, it intends to provide Yugoslavia in the new fiscal year.

"The administration intends to continue to press Yugoslav authorities to follow through on their stated intention to cooperate fully with the international criminal tribunal for Yugoslavia. The United States support for holding of an international donors conference will depend on continued progress by Yugoslavia and Serbia toward full cooperation with the tribunal."

Milosevic was arrested at dawn 1 April after a tense standoff. He was taken to Belgrade Central Prison, where he was ordered held for 30 days while officials prepare evidence for charges of corruption and abuse of power during his 13-year rule.

Asked whether Milosevic would have to be extradited to The Hague for the U.S. to support a donors conference, Boucher said Washington's assessment of Yugoslav cooperation will not be based on a single step.

"Full cooperation can involve any number of steps. Clearly the cooperation has to be worked out with the tribunal. What we've noted so far is things like they've drafted a law on cooperation with the tribunal. Some suspects have indeed been turned over, or turned themselves over with the help of Yugoslav authorities. They've set up an office for the tribunal in Belgrade. So there have been a number of steps. These steps need to be fulfilled."

The U.S. Congress wants Milosevic to face international justice for crimes against humanity, a charge stemming from his 1999 crackdown on ethnic Albanians in the Serbian province of Kosovo. The tribunal has indicted Milosevic and four senior associates on three counts, each of which brings a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. The tribunal has no death penalty.

Authorities in Belgrade say Yugoslav law does not permit extradition of a citizen to the UN court.

"As with this particular certification at this moment, clearly, having Milosevic face international justice for international crimes remains a top priority of the international community and a key factor in their cooperation with the tribunal. But in terms of holding the donors conference, we will make clear that these and other steps are the kind of steps we would expect them to take."

The New York-based Human Rights Watch organization said Milosevic's arrest and trial in Yugoslavia can only be a first step toward justice.

Holly Cartner, executive director of the group's Europe and Central Asia division, said in a written statement that prosecuting Milosevic in Belgrade "can never provide justice for hundreds of thousands of victims of wartime atrocities in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo."

U.S. Senator George Voinovich (R-Ohio) told RFE/RL, however, he believes that the Yugoslav government has done a good job in compliance with the congressional requirements.

"There's a long way to go but we ought to be a lot more positive than we have been in the past and not continually to harp on the issue of Milosevic going to The Hague as kind of the stumbling block to any other kind of help that our country can give Yugoslavia."

And U.S. Senator Joseph Biden (D-Del.) said in a written statement that Milosevic's arrest sends a clear and positive message that the people and government of Yugoslavia are committed to real democratic reform. He said the first step of this commitment is holding those responsible for domestic and international crimes accountable for their actions.

(RFE/RL Washington correspondent K.P. Foley contributed to this report)