CEOL - US, Europe Present United Front On Yugoslavia

WASHINGTON, Nov 10, 1999 -- (Reuters) The United States and Europe presented a united front on democracy in Yugoslavia on Tuesday after the first meeting between Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and top EU officials, including new foreign policy and security chief Javier Solana, of Spain.

Building on a shift last week in U.S. policy toward sanctions against Yugoslavia which brought the Western allies closer together, they seemed determined to combine forces and use the Serbian opposition to topple President Slobodan Milosevic.

"We discussed at length our mutual efforts to support a democratic transition in Serbia and to intensify our dialogue with Yugoslavia's democratic opposition," Albright told a news conference.

Solid in support of opposition

"We agreed on the need to work even more closely to support them, taking into account the ideas of the leaders of that opposition," she added.

Having held NATO together during the alliance's bombing campaign against Yugoslavia, Solana said he was relishing his new role - one in which he is expected to make Europe a more powerful player on the world stage.

"I always believe and I still believe that when the Europeans and the United States get together on foreign policy, this is the best route for success," he said.

"We have done it in the Balkans and we continue to do that and we are going to do it on other topics that we have discussed today," he added.

External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten and Finnish Foreign Minister Tarja Halonen, present because her country holds the EU's revolving presidency, echoed their sentiments that their more than three-hour meeting had been productive and friendly.

Their meeting precedes an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) summit in Turkey on Nov. 15 where the Stability Pact for the Balkans and Russia's military campaign in Chechnya will be major themes.

"The pact is off to a good start but to maintain momentum, we need to lay the basis for further progress at the Istanbul summit next week," Patten said.

Albright expressed hopes that Europe's efforts to build a new foreign and security policy identity would create a stronger partner for the United States and serve as a transatlantic bridge rather than a barrier - particularly through Solana's new post.

"By allowing the EU to speak with an increasingly unified and certain voice, it will make Europe a stronger partner for America in security and foreign affairs," she said.

Strategy undefined

None of the officials went into detail about what progress, if any, was made in developing their strategy to topple Milosevic.

Albright said they had discussed an oil embargo and flight ban which are part of international sanctions against Belgrade.

But there was no further shift in Washington's new position, announced last week, that while it opposed easing sanctions, the holding of across-the-board "free and fair" elections would be enough to end most of them.

Germany is worried that continuing across the board sanctions could further alienate the Serbian electorate against the West and hurt the opposition in its campaign to end Milosevic's rule.

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