August 18, 2000US defends backing of YU rivals
WASHINGTON, Aug. 17 -- The United States today defended its decision to open an office in Budapest to support democratic forces in Yugoslavia, saying it would promote unified opposition to President Slobodan Milosevic.
With the Sept. 24 election there fast approaching, a key opposition leader and a Yugoslav government official both condemned the plan, announced on Tuesday, as interference in Yugoslavia's internal affairs.
But a State Department spokesman, Philip Reeker, said: "We're not in the position of endorsing particular candidates. What we want to do is support a unified opposition so that, again, the people of Serbia can elect leaders that can truly represent their goals."
Washington has denounced pre-election maneuvering by Mr. Milosevic, who has been indicted by a United Nations court for war crimes allegedly committed by his forces in Kosovo last year. The United States also has made repeated calls for his removal from power.