YU president meets Iraqi trade minister

BELGRADE, Jul 1, 2000 -- (Reuters) Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and Iraqi Trade Minister Mohamed Mehdi Saleh said in talks on Friday economic cooperation between their two countries was developing intensively, state news agency Tanjug reported.

Yugoslavia and Iraq, which have both been targets of Western-backed air strikes and international sanctions, have grown closer in recent years in what they call a "joint struggle against the United States' domination and hegemony", according to a statement from Milosevic's office and quoted by Tanjug.

"Yugoslavia and Iraq are determined to fight against the politics of hegemony," the statement said following the talks, which were also attended by Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Nikola Sainovic, Trade Minister Borisav Vukovic and others.

Iraq has condemned NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia last year, which Western leaders said was intended to halt Belgrade's repression of Kosovo's mostly Moslem ethnic Albanians.

In May, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein urged Yugoslavia to join Iraq in resisting the United States and its allies.

Yugoslavia has criticized U.S. and British air strikes on Iraq and the continuing UN sanctions against the country.

Saleh is in Yugoslavia to attend a session of a joint committee for economic, scientific and technological cooperation set up last November, which he co-chairs, at which concrete forms of cooperation are to be defined, Tanjug said.

The Iraqi delegation headed by Saleh met during the several-day visit with other top Yugoslav and Serbian officials and businessmen with whom it agreed on new joint deals and expansion of trade, Tanjug said.

Deals under a United Nations Security Council "Oil for Food" program are particularly important for Yugoslavia, which is under a Western-backed oil embargo.

Yugoslavia has turned increasingly to other markets since international sanctions were imposed on it for its involvement in the 1990s Balkans wars.

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