Serb opposition leader says US aid 'interference'

BELGRADE, Aug 17, 2000 -- (Reuters) An opposition candidate in next month's Yugoslav presidential election on Wednesday blasted a U.S. move to help the democratic opposition in Serbia as interference in Yugoslavia's internal affairs.

Vojislav Kostunica, chosen by 15 Serbian opposition parties as their joint candidate to challenge Yugoslav President Milosevic on September 24, criticized a U.S. decision to open an office in Budapest to aid the Serbian opposition.

"This is the most flagrant interference in internal affairs of our country," Kostunica said in a statement.

The U.S. State Department said on Tuesday, in its daily press briefing published on its website, that it was opening an Office of Yugoslav Affairs within the American Embassy in Budapest, Hungary, which would "support the full range of democratic forces in Serbia and coordinate there in Budapest".

Belgrade broke off diplomatic relations with the United States and three other Western countries last year at the start of NATO's 11-week air campaign against Yugoslavia.

Speaking at a meeting of his Democratic Party of Serbia over the weekend Kostunica said that Serbia did not need U.S. help in its election campaign.

In his statement on Wednesday he said the Americans' main aim was to "break up Yugoslavia and Serbia as a whole", not to promote democracy in Serbia.

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