Balkan states ask UN to kick out Yugoslavia

FORMER YUGOSLAVIA: Belgrade unco-operative over captive Kosovo Albanians and breakaway states' campaign for separate UN membership

THE FOUR breakaway successor states to the former Yugoslavia are making another attempt at having the rump Yugoslavia thrown out of the United Nations and forced to re-apply for membership on equal terms with themselves.

Leading the drive is Slovenia, whose Deputy Foreign Minister, Ernest Petric, was in London this week to press the case with the Foreign Office minister Peter Hain. If successful, the campaign could see Slovenia, Bosnia, Croatia and Macedonia gaining their share of $1bn or more of assets held in the name of the old Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

Since the General Assembly and Security Council resolutions of 1992 and 1993 declaring that Yugoslavia in its previous form had ceased to exist, Belgrade has inhabited a diplomatic no-man's land in New York. Belgrade's representatives are not allowed to sit or speak in the General Assembly. The "mission of Yugoslavia" has to operate behind the scenes, enjoying what amounts to observer status.

The Balkan states' actions follow fruitless years of trying to persuade Belgrade to reach a settlement. Hopes were high after President Slobodan Milosevic put his name to the 1995 Dayton accords, which ended the Bosnian war, but with the Kosovo crisis and Mr Milosevic's indictment for war crimes, Belgrade has lost interest. Its implicit contention is that the four states illegally seceded from what remains Yugoslavia.

The breakaway states hope to persuade a majority of UN members to sponsor an early General Assembly resolution calling for the old Yugoslavia's removal, after which the pressure would be on Belgrade to re-apply for membership as the explicit representative of Serbia and Montenegro alone.

But the plan does not have clear backing. The European Union in particular is thought to be divided, with Greece opposed to the move. Russia's stance is also unclear. Lukewarm support would make it harder for the four states to press their claims for a share of the old Yugoslavia's assets, including about $600m (pounds 370m) in the Bank for International Settlements, frozen bank accounts in several countries and embassy buildings and other properties abroad.

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