CEOL - Clinton Expands Visa Sanctions On Serbia

WASHINGTON, Nov 15, 1999 -- (Reuters) U.S. President Bill Clinton expanded visa sanctions against the Yugoslav government on Friday to include family members of government officials in a ratcheting up of pressure on Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

The United States, under a directive by Clinton during the 11-week NATO air war against Yugoslavia last spring, had ordered U.S. visas be denied for key Yugoslav government officials.

On Friday, Clinton signed a proclamation expanding those sanctions to close family members, other relatives and close associates of those government officials.

The United States now "will have greater flexibility to deny visas to a broad range of Milosevic's key supporters, who are obstructing democracy, suppressing freedom of speech, and financially supporting the regime."

White House National Security Adviser Sandy Berger said the sanctions target those "who are responsible for propping up the Milosevic dictatorship and for the misery it has caused."

"As long as the people of Serbia are suffering, we want to make sure that Milosevic's cronies do not have privileges of travelling to the United States," he said.

Clinton issued the order two days before leaving on a 10-day southern Europe tour that will include his first visit to Kosovo. He will have a pre-Thanksgiving meal with U.S. troops on peacekeeping duty there and make a speech to the people of Kosovo.

While punishing the Milosevic government, Clinton sought to reward those countries and areas that stood firm against Yugoslavia during the Kosovo conflict.

His administration submitted to Congress a proposed Southeast Europe Trade Preference Act, which if approved would authorize duty-free treatment for five years for imports from the region.

The countries covered include Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Romania, Slovenia as well as the Yugoslav republic of Montenegro and the province of Kosovo.

It would apply to products currently not eligible for favorable duty treatment including iron and steel products, agricultural products, footwear, glassware, ceramics and others.

"In some cases that will amount to nearly 40 percent of their total exports to the United States," said Berger. "It's not a big part of our imports, but it's a very big part of their exports."

The United States and its allies have been seeking to remove Milosevic from power by supporting the Serbian opposition and promising to lift economic sanctions once free and fair elections are held.

"As long as Milosevic remains the head of Serbia, Serbia will remain in its destructive downward spiral. We will continue to support a democratic Serbia so that it can take its rightful place in the unified Europe," Berger told reporters.

He said the subject was likely to be discussed at a summit of the 54-nation Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Nov. 18-19 in Istanbul, which Clinton will attend.

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