IN THE NEWS #450 - Yugoslavia's New President

By Cynthia Kirk

This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program IN THE NEWS.

President Clinton has ended several restrictions against Yugoslavia in reaction to the change of government there. The action ends flight restrictions and a ban on oil sales to Yugoslavia. The European Union took similar action Monday.

Yugoslavia's newly elected president, Vojislav Kostunica, said he is ready to renew diplomatic relations with the United States. He spoke after meeting Thursday with American diplomat James O'Brien. It was the highest level talks between the two nations in more than a year. The nations ended ties after the NATO bombing campaign in the Serbian province of Kosovo last year.

The United States and the European Union are supporting Mr. Kostunica in an effort to establish democracy in Yugoslavia. Mr. Kostunica took power after a popular revolt in Serbia last week in which former President Slobodan Milosevic was forced from office.

Opposition leaders had demanded that Mr. Milosevic resign after he was defeated by Mr. Kostunica in elections for Yugoslav president last month. But Mr. Milosevic refused. Widespread demonstrations followed. They resulted in the takeover of the parliament building in Serbia's capital, Belgrade. Mr. Milosevic later resigned.

Slobodan Milosevic came to power in Yugoslavia in Nineteen-Eighty-Nine. Under his dictatorship, the country suffered through ethnic conflicts and economic problems. Two years ago, Mr. Milosevic led a violent campaign against ethnic Albanian separatists in the Serbian province of Kosovo. NATO forces led a bombing campaign that forced Mr. Milosevic to withdraw Yugoslav troops from Kosovo. He has been charged with war crimes by an international war crimes court.

Yugoslavia includes the republics of Serbia and Montenegro. Each has its own president and legislature. They are elected separately from the federal president and parliament.

Vojislav Kostunica is recognized as the new Yugoslav president and has the support of the federal parliament. But allies of Mr. Milosevic still hold a majority in Serbia's parliament and control the Serbian presidency. Serbia is home to ninety percent of the Yugoslav population. Control of the republic is important to both sides.

Mr. Kostunica wants to form a temporary government in Serbia and hold new legislative elections in December. New elections would give his democratic party coalition a chance to extend its control in Serbia. But some allies of Mr. Milosevic have resisted Mr. Kostunica's efforts. They threatened to regain control of the country.

Mr. Kostunica had given Mr. Milosevic's Socialist party allies until Friday to agree to his demands. President Kostunica says the Socialists have now agreed to accept elections in Serbia in December.

This VOA Special English program IN THE NEWS, was written by Cynthia Kirk. This is Steve Ember.

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