YU denies visa to UN's DelPonte

BELGRADE, Jun 18, 2000 -- (Reuters) The Yugoslav government said on Saturday it had denied chief UN war crimes tribunal prosecutor Carla Del Ponte access to the country, state news agency Tanjug reported.

The agency reported that a statement from the foreign ministry said Del Ponte does not have permission or a visa to visit Yugoslavia.

"Carla Del Ponte is a NATO administration clerk and such a person does not have permission from Yugoslav authorities nor does she have a visa for a visit to any part of the country's sovereign territory," Tanjug reported the statement as saying.

Del Ponte's spokesman Paul Risley said in The Hague on Friday that she was scheduled to visit Montenegro, Serbia's only partner in the Yugoslav federation, and Kosovo, the troubled province now under de facto international rule, next week. She was also scheduled to visit neighbouring Macedonia.

"The purpose of the visit is to meet with Serbian victims of violence in Kosovo," Risley said, adding the dates were not made public due to tight security.

He said Del Ponte had requested a visa to go to Belgrade but had not got a reply.

On Friday, Montenegrin loyalists of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic said they would stage a mass protest to block the visit if Del Ponte went ahead with it.

The ministry's statement said a visit by Del Ponte would breech the Yugoslav constitution.

"Those who accept her and allow her to come to the sovereign Yugoslav territory continue to fawn upon NATO and the American administration, breech the Yugoslav constitution and laws, step over victims of NATO alliance and carry responsibility in front of its own people."

Montenegro's government, said to have invited Del Ponte, has been at odds with Milosevic for years, pursuing pro-Western economic and democratic reforms and even threatening to secede if Belgrade ignored its reformist policies.

The Hague tribunal has indicted Milosevic and four of his closest aides for atrocities Yugoslav security forces allegedly committed in Kosovo before NATO's air campaign drove them from the ethnic-Albanian dominated province last year.

Original article