Russia says Belgrade contributing to own isolation

MOSCOW, Jun 10, 2000 -- (Reuters) Russia, in rare if restrained criticism of its ally Yugoslavia, said on Friday that President Slobodan Milosevic was helping to deepen his country's international isolation through his undemocratic actions. Addressing the State Duma lower house of parliament, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov urged Milosevic to adopt a more cooperative approach towards the outside world and to begin a dialogue with his political opponents inside Yugoslavia. "The present position of Belgrade, following a 'besieged fortress' policy, does not help (the cause of normalizing Yugoslavia's situation)," Interfax news agency quoted Ivanov as telling deputies. He noted that Milosevic had cracked down on independent Yugoslav media and was waging an economic blockade against Montenegro, Serbia's tiny partner in the Yugoslav Federation, while his political foes were calling for his overthrow. "At this time, Yugoslavia least of all needs domestic confrontation. A dialogue inside the country is essential," Ivanov was quoted as saying. He said Moscow was doing its best to help Belgrade, but expected the authorities to show reciprocal flexibility. "Russia is effectively the only force in the world which consistently defends Yugoslavia as the victim of aggression and is striving to help this country to come out of international isolation," RIA news agency quoted him as saying. Russia fiercely opposed NATO's 11-week-long bombing campaign against its Slavic, Orthodox Christian brethren in Yugoslavia last year, though it now participates in the NATO-led peacekeeping force in the Serbian province of Kosovo. Ivanov repeated Moscow's call for a lifting of international sanctions against Yugoslavia. On the Yugoslav domestic front, he said Moscow was keeping open its contacts with both the government and the opposition. Several Yugoslav officials have visited Moscow in the past month, including the defence and foreign ministers, the speaker of the lower house of parliament and leaders of the opposition. The visit of Defence Minister Dragoljub Ojdanic, an indicted war criminal, triggered a storm of protest in Western capitals.

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