Serb diaspora to urge US to lift sanctions

BELGRADE, Jan 25, 2000 -- (Reuters) An American-Serb delegation is expected to press Washington on Monday to lift some of the international sanctions now in force against Belgrade, a Serbian non-governmental organization said.

The attempt follows a Serb diaspora meeting in Chicago at the weekend to discuss ways of helping democratic forces in Serbia to oust Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

Political observers saw the step as the most serious attempt by the Serb diaspora to bring democracy to their homeland. So far, most financial aid from abroad has been in support of Milosevic.

The stepping up of expatriate Serb efforts to help democracy also seems to have followed the most recent agreement Serbia's fragmented opposition reached on January 10 when it adopted a joint anti-Milosevic strategy.

"Lifting of sanctions is now in focus. A delegation of the Serb lobby is in Washington today to discuss this with the American administration," said Dusan Batakovic, the head of the non governmental Council for Democratic Changes in Serbia.

Europe ready to help - Batakovic

"There are some signs that Europe is ready to (soften some sanctions) while the Americans are adamantly opposed," Batakovic told a news conference, adding that Serbs would also go to European diplomatic offices to press their cause.

The Chicago diaspora meeting decided to immediately step up efforts to soften the United States stance over sanctions, according to a statement distributed to journalists in Belgrade.

The U.S and some European countries insist that no sanctions should be lifted against the country as long as Milosevic is in power. The Serb opposition argues sanctions only hurt ordinary people and further entrench the Serb strongman.

In Brussels on Monday, European Union ministers are expected to discuss a new carrot-and-stick policy towards Belgrade and review some of the sanctions.

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