CEOL - Milosevic decorates Chinese ambassador and journalists

BELGRADE, Dec 25, 1999 -- (AFP) Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic has decorated a group of Chinese citizens for "their courage and solidarity during the NATO aggression on Yugoslavia," the state news agency Tanjug reported Friday.

Among the recipients was the Chinese ambassador to Belgrade and three reporters killed in NATO bombing of Beijing embassy in the Yugoslav capital on May 8, the agency said.

The decorations were awarded for "special merits in developing relations between the two countries and their courage and solidarity during NATO aggression," the agency said.

Milosevic also thanked Chinese President Jiang Zemin for his "support and assistance to our country and its struggle for keeping the freedom, independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity as the highest national interests."

China supported Yugoslavia throughout the NATO air war on the grounds that foreign powers had no right to interfere in a country's internal affairs.

The ceremony came ahead of an official four day-visit to China by Yugoslav Foreign Minister Zivadin Jovanovic's due to start Saturday.

Earlier this month, a Chinese delegation visiting Belgrade signed a series of co-operation agreements covering trade, finance and Chinese participation in the reconstruction of Yugoslavia.

Independent economists estimate damage caused by NATO air strikes earlier this year at 60 billion dollars (euros), while Western powers have declined to provide financial assistance as long as Milosevic remains in power.

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