US supports tightening of sanctions on BelgradeBy JANE PERLEZ
February 10, 2000
WASHINGTON, Feb. 9 -- In an effort to tighten pressure on the Yugoslav leader, Slobodan Milosevic, the Clinton administration said today that it supported a plan to expand some sanctions against Belgrade while allowing some commercial airline flights to resume.
The most effective sanction so far, according to many officials, has been the little-publicized tool of refusing travel visas to Mr. Milosevic's political and financial supporters.
Under the plan of tougher sanctions announced by Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, the number of associates of Mr. Milosevic officially barred from traveling to the United States and the nations of the European Union would be increased from the current 600, perhaps as much as 25 percent.
The administration also backed a plan, to be presented to the European Union's general affairs council in Brussels on Monday, to strengthen enforcement of a ban on banking transfers from Yugoslavia to European capitals, Dr. Albright said.
The secretary of state made the announcement at a joint appearance here with the British foreign secretary, Robin Cook.
In response to requests from the struggling opposition parties in Serbia, the ban on flights by airlines of European Union countries would be suspended for six months. If free and fair elections were not held in Yugoslavia within six months from the lifting of the ban, the concession on the airline flights would be "automatically" withdrawn, State Department officials said.
How to undermine Mr. Milosevic, who has been indicted by the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague, while unifying the the squabbling factions of the opposition, has been a subject of considerable debate within the State Department.
Dr. Albright has let it be known in recent weeks that one of her most fervent hopes for the remainder of her term is to see the end of Mr. Milosevic's power.
A recent round of political killings in Belgrade has encouraged some administration officials to speculate that Mr. Milosevic's regime may implode. The Yugoslav defense minister, Pavle Bulatovic, was shot and killed on Monday as he was eating dinner in a Belgrade soccer club. Last month, the Serbian paramilitary leader and close associate of Mr. Milosevic, Zeljko Raznatovic, was shot dead eating dinner at the Intercontinental Hotel in Belgrade.
The cause of these killings and whether they were masterminded by Mr. Milosevic is still unclear. But what does seem clear is that the dominant black-market economy in Serbia and fights over who controls it are resulting in the increased tensions within ruling circles.
In that respect, officials said, the visa ban on close associates of Mr. Milosevic -- many of them accustomed to high living in European capitals and on checking up on their foreign investments -- has been most effective. Some of these associates appear to be complaining that Mr. Milosevic's rule is hurting rather than benefiting them.
By tightening the screws with the tougher travel ban, the administration hopes that further cracks will emerge in the Belgrade government.
For several months, the administration had rejected proposals by European countries to lift the ban on civilian airline flights to Belgrade. Such an easing would open the door to lifting other sanctions, administration officials argued.
But Dr. Albright said today that the airline flights would be permitted because they had been requested by the opposition parties. The secretary has met twice in recent months with leaders of the Serbian opposition, and her aides are in daily contact with them.
"Today we are making very clear that the sanctions are going to be targeted, expanded and tightened against those from the regime that are not allowing the people of Serbia to express their will," Dr. Albright said.
The European Union and the United States have comparable regulations banning bank transfers from Belgrade, but enforcement has been lax in Europe, the State Department said. The European Union had pledged to increase its staffing to monitor and stop such transactions, officials said.
But how effective these banking sanctions would be remained an open question. "It's like squeezing Jello," one official said.