Yugoslavia may allow war crimes tribunal to move into Belgrade

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The Independent Online

Yugoslavia could patch up diplomatic relations with the United States and major European powers in a week or two and start cooperating with the U.N. War Crimes tribunal, the country's new foreign minister said Sunday.

Yugoslavia could patch up diplomatic relations with the United States and major European powers in a week or two and start cooperating with the U.N. War Crimes tribunal, the country's new foreign minister said Sunday.

"It's only normal that we have close cooperation with the United States, with Russia," Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic told Beta news agency, one day after the new government was inaugurated.

Svilanovic, an ally of Yugoslavia's new President Vojislav Kostunica, also said relations could be restored within the next couple of weeks with countries who severed ties last year during NATO's air campaign, including the United States, Germany and Great Britain.

Following the ouster of Slobodan Milosevic, Kostunica has been struggling to end a decade of Yugoslavia's international isolation.

Svilanovic became the foreign minister in a parliamentary vote late Saturday when the country's first non-communist government in more than half a century, was sworn in. Kostunica's Serbia-based, 18-party DOS alliance and the Montenegro-based Socialist People's party make up the new Cabinet.

Restoring relations with Western countries, as well as speeding up privatisation and carrying out reforms by European Union standards, are also goals of the country's new Prime Minister Zoran Zizic. He also pledged to respect international obligations, such as peace deals for Bosnia and Kosovo, signed by Milosevic.

Milosevic and three of his associates were indicted by the U.N. war crimes tribunal at The Hague for alleged atrocities committed in Kosovo.

While both Kostunica and Zizic have expressed skepticism about the court's impartiality and ruled out immediate extraditions of the suspects, Svilanovic said the country must take responsibility for war crimes.

"We cannot and must not avoid to face the consequences of the war," he said. "We need to do everything to reveal to our public everything that was done, whether in the name of alleged Serb national interest or against Serbs."

He suggested the tribunal could reopen an office in Belgrade to help war crimes investigators in gathering evidence, as well as the formation of a truth commission for Kosovo, similar to the one in South Africa.

In addition he said Yugoslav embassies will get new personnel, including ambassadors in key places, such as the U.N. headquarters in New York and Moscow, where Milosevic's brother Borislav has held the post.

Shortly after its inauguration late Saturday, the Cabinet held its first meeting in the early hours Sunday. Vice prime minister Miroljub Labus said ministers were busy "formulating economic policy and defining budgets for the next year."

Svilanovic also announced efforts toward full diplomatic relations with the former Yugoslav republics, especially with Slovenia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, that seceded from the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s.

The new Cabinet also said it would try "harmonise" relations internally, between Serbia and Montenegro, Yugoslavia's two remaining republics which each have their own government.

Montenegro's government is controlled by pro-independence parties which boycotted the recent federal elections, demanding constitutional changes to make the federation a loose union of virtually sovereign Serbia and Montenegro.

The ruling parties in Montenegro severed most ties with the central government in Belgrade by 1998, protesting against Milosevic's autocratic rule. They have now praised Kostunica's democratic credentials, but reiterated Sunday that they intend to ignore decisions made by the federal government.

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