Bosnia must drop war crimes charges, Belgrade says

SARAJEVO, Mar 4, 2000 -- (Reuters) Belgrade said on Thursday it was ready to resume talks on the establishment of diplomatic relations with Bosnia if it drops charges against Yugoslavia at a UN court, Bosnia's Foreign Ministry said on Friday.

A spokesman for the ministry said it had sent a note in January to its Yugoslav counterpart proposing a normalization of relations and Belgrade replied that it was "ready to start talks in that direction".

But Hajrudin Somun said Yugoslavia was still demanding as a condition to establishing bilateral relations that Bosnia drops charges against it at the UN's International Court of Justice in the Hague relating to the 1992-95 Bosnian war.

"According to their earlier explanations, it (the problem) is the charges," Somun told Reuters.

The Moslem-led government of Bosnia which broke away from the old Yugoslav federation in April 1992 filed the charges in 1993, accusing Yugoslavia of violating international conventions on armed conflicts, genocide and human rights.

In 1997 Yugoslavia, which backed Serb separatists in the Bosnian war, filed counter-charges which the court added to the case, which is still open.

Yugoslavia is facing international isolation for its role in a decade of Balkan wars, and last year NATO conducted an air campaign to drive its forces from the southernmost province of Kosovo where they were oppressing majority Albanian population.

Bosnia was Serbia's top trading partner last year, with exports from Serbia standing at $287 million and imports at $155 million.

But that trade is mostly done with the Bosnian Serb republic rather than the Moslem Croat Federation. The two entities have made up Bosnia since the 1995 Dayton treaty that ended the three-year war between Serbs, Moslems and Croats.

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