Russian MPs, in Belgrade, blast UN tribunal

BELGRADE, Jul 10, 2000 -- (Reuters) A Russian parliamentary delegation visiting Belgrade condemned the UN war crimes tribunal for being "a political instrument of NATO countries", the Yugoslav state news agency Tanjug said on Sunday.

Russia fiercely opposed NATO's 1999 bombing campaign against the government of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, who was indicted by the Hague-based tribunal along with four senior associates for alleged war crimes in Kosovo.

Tanjug quoted from a statement issued by the Yugoslav parliament after a meeting with the four-member State Duma (lower house) delegation led by Dmitry Rogozin, head of its foreign affairs committee.

"The Russian parliamentarians stressed that the Russian people extend full support to the Yugoslav people's struggle in the defense of freedom, independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity," the statement said.

The Russian parliamentarians also asked for the return of the Yugoslav army to Kosovo, a Serbian province now under NATO-backed UN administration, the statement said.

They called for the lifting of all sanctions against Yugoslavia and its return to international organizations from which the country has been barred as a result of its involvement in Balkan wars during the 1990s.

The Russian parliamentarians and Yugoslav Serb officials both stressed the need to increase economic cooperation through joint ventures and participation of Russian firms in the reconstruction of Yugoslavia.

They said the two countries would soon sign a free trade agreement, Tanjug said.

A Yugoslav parliament delegation visited Moscow last month following trips by Foreign Minister Zivadin Jovanovic, Defense Minister Dragoljub Ojdanic and Serbian opposition leaders.

Ojdanic's visit triggered a storm of criticism in Western capitals as he is one of four Milosevic associates also indicted by the UN tribunal over alleged atrocities against ethnic Albanians in the 1998-99 Kosovo conflict.

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