G8 slaps YU

TOKYO, Jul 13, 2000 -- (Reuters) The world's big powers on Thursday applauded North Korea's cautious outreach to the West and slapped Yugoslavia for recent amendments to the Yugoslav constitution that allow President Slobodan Milosevic to extend his hold on power.

Wrapping up two days of talks on an agenda that ranged from war diamonds and child soldiers to United Nations reform and the Balkans, the Group of Eight (G8) also unveiled a plan aimed at preventing conflicts before they happen.

"We welcome the recent steps taken by North Korea toward dialogue with the international community," the ministers said in a concluding statement.

As expected, the ministers finessed their references to concerns over the reclusive Stalinist state's missile and nuclear programs to avoid derailing its tentative opening to the West.

"In this context, we look forward to a constructive response to international concerns over security, non-proliferation, humanitarian and human rights issues," the statement said.

On Yugoslavia - debate over which dominated talks over dinner on Wednesday, the ministers said they were "very concerned about the motivation for and the possible consequences of the revision of" Yugoslavia's constitution.

"We call on the government of Belgrade to refrain from any action which could contribute to the further escalation of violence," they said.

But faced with reluctance by Russia for a stronger comment, they left out any direct reference to Milosevic.

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