|VOICE OF AMERICA|
SLUG: 2-314652 U-S-/ Serbia Aid (L-O)
TITLE=U-S / SERBIA AID (L-ONLY)
INTRO: The United States is suspending aid to Serbia and Montenegro after determining that the Belgrade government is not fully cooperating with the U-N war crimes tribunal for the Balkans. About 25 million dollars worth of U-S aid money is being withheld. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.
TEXT: Delivery of U-S aid to Serbia and Montenegro is dependent on an annual certification to Congress by the administration of Belgrade's cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal in the Hague.
It was able to make that certification for each of the last three years since the fall of the government of Slobodan Milosevic, who has himself become a war crimes defendant.
But officials here say that support for the tribunal has slid in recent months, amid the assumption in power in Belgrade of a new coalition government dependent on the parliamentary support of Serbian nationalists.
At a news briefing, State Department spokesman Adam Ereli confirmed that Secretary of State Colin Powell was letting a Wednesday deadline pass without the required certification:
As a result, as of March 31st, new assistance for Serbia will stop. We call on the authorities in Belgrade to cooperate fully with the tribunal by arresting and transferring their fugitive indictees, particularly Ratko Mladic to face justice before the tribunal. It's important to point out that if Serbia and Montenegro takes action in the future, the Secretary is prepared to review such actions to determine whether they meet the requirements of the law.
Ratko Mladic was military chief of the Bosnian Serb republic in the early 1990s when numerous atrocities against Bosnian Muslims and Croats were documented.
Spokesman Ereli said U-S officials believe that 16 indicted war crimes suspects "spend a preponderance of their time" in Serbia and that Ratko Mladic "has been in a position to be apprehended," and should be.
The suspension affects the approximately 25 million dollars in aid that remains undelivered from a 100-million dollar U-S aid package for the 2004 fiscal year.
U-S officials had repeatedly warned Serbian officials that the aid was in jeopardy.
The State Department's third-ranking official - Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Marc Grossman - raised the issue again in a mission to Belgrade this week that included talks with Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica.
Spokesman Ereli sounded a conciliatory note toward the Kostunica government, saying that Mr. Grossman came away from the talks believing that the Belgrade leadership "recognizes its responsibilities" and that cooperation between the two countries "is certainly possible."
He said the United States wants to see Serbia succeed and wants to work with it to help it meet its international obligations so that, in his words, "we can all move forward."
Mr. Kostunica took office in January as head of a minority coalition dependent on the backing of Mr. Milosevic's Serbian Socialist Party.
The prime minister, familiar to U-S officials from his previous role as Yugoslav president, has been a critic of the Hague tribunal and the handover of Mr. Milosevic, contending that war crimes figures should be tried in Serbia. (Signed)
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